One of Angela Rayner’s colleagues on the Labour front bench has said there "may have been drink partaken" at an event in which she called Conservatives "scum".
Emily Thornberry, the shadow trade secretary, said Ms Rayner should not have made the remark but defended the rest of her comments as in keeping with the "atmosphere" of a Labour fringe meeting.
"What she was doing at a fringe meeting, where there may have been drink partaken … People just need to know the atmosphere, it was not a sitting around, considered debate," Ms Thornberry said. "She probably shouldn’t have said scum, but the rest of it – of course."
Allies of the deputy leader said she had not been drinking at the event. Sir Keir Starmer and other Labour shadow ministers have distanced themselves from her comments after calls for her resignation from the Conservative Party.
At the event on Saturday night, Ms Rayner said: "We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, absolute vile… banana republic, vile, nasty, Etonian… piece of scum."
On Monday, she challenged Boris Johnson to sit down with her and apologise for his own "racist, homophobic and sexist" comments before she says sorry for her verbal attack on Conservatives.
The Ashton-under-Lyne MP tweeted that people "seem to be far more concerned with my choice of language" than the Prime Minister’s own "racist, homophobic and sexist" comments, adding: "I’m very happy to sit down with Boris. If he withdraws his comments and apologises, I’ll be very happy to apologise to him."
Ms Rayner has previously been reprimanded in Parliament for referring to the Conservatives as "scum" in the House of Commons.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said Ms Rayner’s attack was "absolutely appalling", telling Sky News: "There’s no place in public life for that sort of language, that sort of behaviour." James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, said voters "know she’s talking c–p".
At an event in Brighton on Monday night, Jessica Barnard, the chairman of Young Labour, referred to Mr Johnson’s government as "Tory scum".