Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, got herself widely noticed (as she intended) by calling Boris Johnson and his colleagues “scum” during her party’s annual conference. The incident stirred memories of an earlier Labour insult, which featured in The Daily Telegraph’ s letters page, to which Alistair Lexden contributed on 30 September.
SIR - Richard Lyon (Letters, September 28) recalls how Nye Bevan’s foolish “lower than vermin” speech of 4 July 1948 (inaugurating the NHS) inspired the creation of a Tory Vermin Club, with branches in many constituencies.
An enthusiastic young election candidate, Margaret Roberts, was at the forefront of recruitment. In her memoirs, Lady Thatcher described how “we went around wearing ‘vermin’ badges—a little blue rat. Those who recruited 10 new party members wore badges identifying them as ‘vile vermin’; if you recruited 20 you were ‘very vile vermin’.”
By the 1950 election, the club had brought about 120,000 new members into the Conservative Party. Bevan was soundly rebuked by Herbert Morrison, who said that his comments “did much more to make the Tories work and vote than Conservative Central Office could have done.” How about a Scum Club?