Angela Rayner has failed to fully endorse Labour’s controversial ads personally attacking Rishi Sunak.
The party’s deputy leader – a regular user of social media – is one of the shadow cabinet members who has failed to retweet the posts, which included one accusing the prime minister of not supporting the jailing of child sex offenders.
Keir Starmer has insisted he “stands by every word” of the campaign, which has been criticised by senior Labour figures including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
Appearing on Sky News this morning, Rayner repeatedly stopped short of backing the Labour strategy.
Asked by presenter Kay Burley whether she agreed with the campaign, the deputy leader said: “Well I think it’s absolutely right that the Labour Party is holding the prime minister and the Conservatives to account for their absolute failure to deal with these serious crimes.
“These are the government’s own statistics and we put them out in the public domain in a way that has caught people’s attention because it’s not right that so many of these crimes are going without the level of punishment that they deserve.
“People feel at the moment that the criminal justice system is not working for them and the government is setting the framework for that and they’re responsible for it and Rishi Sunak is the prime minister.”
Burley then said: “So just to clarify, do you support the tone of these ads? Because you haven’t retweeted any of them have you?”
Rayner replied: “I think they’re really hard-hitting and I think there’s a reason [for] that. It has caught the public’s attention and that’s what our intention was, to ensure that the public do see that the prime minister, and the Conservatives for the last 13 years, have failed to tackle serious crime and have let criminals off the hook.
“We make no apology for that. I’m known for not holding my punches and I think that this is an issue that most people will be disgusted by and I think it’s right that we’ve highlighted them.”
Asked again why she had not retweeted any of the ads, Rayner said she “was away with my children last week so I was not necessarily on my social media as much as I normally would be”.
Burley then said: “Yeah but you’ve tweeted a lot but you’ve not retweeted those. The bottom line is you haven’t retweeted those because you’re holding your nose because you think they’ve gone a bit far.”
But Rayner responded: “Not at all, no. I just think these are hard-hitting ads on the government’s failure on crime and I think it’s right that we highlight that.”
A Labour source said: “We’re determined to take the fight to the Tories. They may not be used to a Labour Party that wants to campaign on law and order but it’s important to Keir Starmer and he wants voters to be in no doubt that we’re on their side.”