Former soldier and nurse Sarah Atherton, who became Wrexham’s first Conservative MP in 2019, last month quit Twitter after being targeted by leftwing campaigners with vile abuse and threats. She told the Sunday Express that she was shocked by the comments made by Ms Rayner, the shadow deputy prime minister, at a Labour conference fringe meeting in Brighton describing Conservatives as “a bunch of scum.
And she has warned that it will only add to fuel a toxic culture in politics where women MPs in particular have been targeted with threats and abuse.
Ms Atherton said: “When an MP cannot go to their own conference because of abuse from their own party, or when one must quit an online platform as a result of the abuse they have received we must all, the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister included, be aware of the language we are using in public debate and ensure it is appropriate.
“Comments like those from Angela Rayner only serve to add fuel to the online fire of abuse and trolling, normalising the harassment that many public figures get online, setting us all back by making it seem acceptable when it is not.”
Ms Rayner has refused to apologise for the comment suggesting that it is used light heartedly in the north of England.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would not have used the language but refused to ask his deputy to apologise.
Others defended her language.
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who once said Brexiteers were worse than Nazis, said: “I too have been known for fruity remarks over the years.”
But referring to comments made in columns by Boris Johnson, he added: “I’m not that keen to take lectures from senior Tories who have a leader who described people like me as being piccaninnies with watermelon smiles, who describes gay men as tank topped bumboys or Muslim women as bank robbers.”
The only member of Labour’s shadow cabinet who suggested that she should say sorry was shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray who has been a regular target for SNP supporters north of the Border.
He said: “I think it would be worth an apology, and I think it would do an awful lot of good to Angela to apologise as well – and I think it would do an awful lot for our political discourse.”
The row has also brought back memories of former shadow Chancellor John McDonnell repeating a comment during a speech that then Conservative benefits minister Esther McVey should be “lynched”.
Mr McDonnell has also refused to apologise.