Angela Rayner has said while she and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were not yet “best of mates”, they had found a way to complement each other, as she revealed she loves “the Punch and Judy” of taking on Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions in his place.
The party’s deputy leader has stepped in for Sir Keir on numerous occasions at PMQs when he has needed to isolate after testing positive for Covid.
In an interview with Times Radio, Ms Rayner revealed she did just 20 minutes to half an hour of preparation and relished in “getting one up on Boris Johnson at the despatch box”.
"It's not about being the cleverest person in the room. It's about being able to get your point across in a short period of time."— Times Radio (@TimesRadio) March 5, 2022
Ayesha Hazarika talks to Angela Rayner, Deputy Labour Leader, about preparing for PMQs.@ayeshahazarika @angelarayner pic.twitter.com/JzAYz8HDnD
She said: “I love it. I love the Punch and Judy of it.
“You know, it’s about banter, it is about getting over your message in a short way.
“So it’s not about being the cleverest person in the room, it’s about being able to get your point across in a very short period of time.
“So I love it actually. I like the theatre of it, I like the setup of it, I love the noise.
“I hate the Chamber when it’s quiet. I mean, I don’t know what that says about me but if you’ve ever seen me – even when I was shadow education secretary – they were baying for my blood at one point, and I just loved it.
“I think if I ever went in the Chamber and it was quiet, I’d feel like I’ve not evoked any emotion from anyone.”
Ms Rayner said she enjoyed the debate of PMQs, adding: “I love getting one up on Boris Johnson at the despatch box, or when it was Dominic Raab and I told him to get back on his sun lounger.”
Asked if she was nervous stepping into Sir Keir’s shoes to take on the Prime Minister, she said: “No, not anymore, no, I used to get nervous when I first started at the despatch box.
“But now I just think you’re there to represent your constituents and to represent your party and be the Opposition. So for me, it’s like an out of body experience, if I could put it that way.
“It’s not me. You know when an actor plays a role, for me I’m playing… I am Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and I am everybody who feels aggrieved. I am their voice and I channel it all, so I don’t actually think it’s me.”
Ms Rayner said she did not have any warm-up music or rituals she relied on, but that she did not prepare too early, preferring to “fly by the seat of my pants”.
“I will not prepare before the morning I’m actually doing it or 20 minutes before I’m doing it. So I psych it out of my brain, because otherwise it’s in my head and then I start thinking of all the things that could go wrong. So I shut it out of my head,” she said.
“Half an hour is the maximum prep I’ll do because otherwise, I think you just in your mind you go into all these different places, you overthink, and I want to be authentic.”
Ms Rayner described her relationship with Sir Keir as “reasonably good”, adding: “It’s fair to say that me and Keir are completely different in the way we do things.”
Describing them as “yin and yang”, she said they did not clash on issues, but had different ways in which they would respond, with the key being to understand each other.
“Just because we respond differently doesn’t mean to say that we don’t have the same feelings on the subject,” she said.
“It’s like putting two dogs together in a room, they’ll fight for a little bit, and then they find a way and then they become best of mates.
“So I think we haven’t quite got (to) best of mates yet, but we’ve definitely found a way to exist together and to complement each other.”