Police to investigate Angela Rayner’s past living arrangements as she struggles to shake off political row

Labour deputy leader says she will ‘do the right thing and step down’ if found to have committed criminal offence

Senior figures in Britain’s Labour Party have rallied around its deputy leader, Angela Rayner, after police said they would investigate issues surrounding the sale of her former council house following complaints from her political rivals in the Conservative Party.

The announcement by Greater Manchester Police on Friday morning represented a big political setback for Ms Rayner, who has faced persistent questioning from the media and Tories for weeks over the issue, which she had hoped was finally disappearing into her rear-view mirror.

Last month, she was accused by Tories of avoiding capital gains tax when she sold the house almost a decade ago, but she denied that any tax was due and police initially declined to get involved.

Now, following further complaints from a Tory MP, police have agreed to investigate whether Ms Rayner breached electoral law by allegedly giving false information about the location of her main address on the electoral roll.


The tax issue is over a relatively small sum – only about £3,500 that could possibly have been due on the £48,500 profit she made on the £127,500 sale. The electoral law issue also carries small potential fines of up to £1,000, and is considered a minor issue overall.

Yet despite the small sums involved, any finding of wrongdoing following a police investigation would have the potential to be seriously politically damaging for the woman who would be Britain’s deputy prime minister if Labour wins the next election. She has consistently painted it as a Tory smear and became emotional last month at a lunch with journalists when asked about the issue, saying it was an invasion of her children’s privacy and she had done nothing wrong.

Labour says it is “completely confident” that Ms Rayner complied with the rules at all times in relation to the sale of her house. Party leader Keir Starmer, whose big announcement on Friday over defence spending was overshadowed by the row, said he was satisfied his deputy had done nothing wrong and he welcomed the police investigation as an opportunity for “a line to be drawn” under it.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London who seeks a third term in an election on May 2nd, said on Friday that Ms Rayner was one of his “best friends” and he was sure “she’ll be cleared”.

Ed Miliband, the former party leader who is now its shadow environment secretary, said he was “100 per cent” behind her: “We are incredibly proud of Angela Rayner ... She is exactly the kind of person we need in politics.”

Shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has also had to defend Ms Rayner in public in recent weeks, as the row over her past living arrangements has refused to go away.

Ms Rayner bought her former council house in 2007 under a discount scheme introduced by former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher. She sold it in 2015, but in the intervening period, she got married to a man who owned his own house a little over a mile away.

She said the house that she bought was her main residence throughout this period, which would mean capital gains tax was not be due on its sale, and that she only sometimes stayed at her then-husband’s house a mile away. Tories have questioned whether her version of events is credible.

Ms Rayner has based her entire political persona on her experiences and struggles as a working class woman who became a teenage mother, and has been a vociferous and particularly effective critic of the Tories, which has put her in that party’s political crosshairs. Several Tory MPs on Friday called for her to resign from Labour’s front bench in the wake of the police investigation.

Ms Rayner said on Friday that if she is found to have committed a criminal offence, she “would of course do the right thing and step down”.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times