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Who Is Angela Rayner, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister?

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“I’ve never been called timid in my life,” Angela Rayner, a Labour lawmaker, told an audience of British voters during a televised debate last month while laying out her policy priorities.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Ms. Rayner, 44, is set to become one of the most powerful women in British politics as her party forms a new government on Friday, ending 14 years of Conservative Party rule.

A straight-talking lawmaker with a warm, direct manner and an at times brutal honesty, Ms. Rayner is considered one of Labour’s most powerful electoral assets in reaching ordinary voters.

Political analysts say she appeals to parts of the public that the new prime minister, Keir Starmer, might otherwise struggle to connect with.

“She can speak to a broad swath of voters, including working-class voters who might not connect to the Starmer project,” said Dr. Lise Butler, a lecturer in Modern History at City, University of London. “I do think that her gender is important. She is appealing. She is clear spoken, and sometimes very frankly spoken.”

Ms. Rayner was named deputy prime minister and the secretary of state for improving housing and communities on Friday, both major roles in the new administration.

In the early hours of Friday morning, after she won her seat in Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester, she paid tribute to “the working class people who are the bedrock of this country” in her victory speech. “There is no greater honor than to serve you,” she said.

While the top political roles in Britain have traditionally been dominated by the country’s elites, with many in power hailing from the same private schools and universities, Ms. Rayner has taken a less traditional route to the top.

She left school at 16 when she was pregnant and later cared for older people and then became a union representative at her workplace.

It was through the trade union movement that she came to politics, rising first through the ranks of the union, before being elected as her constituency’s first female member of Parliament.

She served in prominent political positions under Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, and is often associated with the more left-leaning wing of the party. In 2020, she was elected as the Labour Party’s deputy leader, and despite some initial tensions with Mr. Starmer, she has thrived in his revamped and more center-left Labour Party.

“She’s very carefully bridged different parts of the party,” said Ms. Butler. “She’s a rare example, I think, of someone who has been able to gain a profile within both the Corbyn leadership and the Starmer leadership.”

But political adversaries and the tabloid press have regularly taken aim at her, something Sarah Childs, a professor of politics and gender at the University of Edinburgh, said is certainly linked to her ascendant political career.

“The fact that she is unapologetic, that she can at times be quite strident, she doesn’t necessarily behave always how some people might want women in public life to behave,” Ms. Childs said. And that “creates a context where critics who want to will take that particular way of behaving and problematize it.”

In 2022, a British tabloid printed a report based on an unnamed Conservative lawmaker’s claim that Ms. Rayner had tried to distract Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament by rearranging her legs, comparing her to Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” The article was met with widespread outrage from other lawmakers in parliament, with one saying: “The story is that there is misogyny alive and well and stalking the corridors of the House of Commons.”

Ms. Rayner’s strong northern accent, a clear marker of her upbringing in Stockport, has been mocked by some anti-Labour critics on social media, but it is a point of pride for her.

“I speak like people do where I grew up,” Ms. Rayner wrote on the social media platform X last year. “I want people from backgrounds like mine who’ve been told to ‘know your place’ to know that public life is their place too.”

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