The party’s deputy leader said Labour must have “diversity of thought” at all levels following the outbreak of the Gaza conflict, which has exposed deep divisions within the party.
Ms Rayner, who also serves as shadow levelling-up secretary, said: “Look, we have to be diverse. Like, you don’t just need a load of Angela Rayners – that would be awful. There’s only one. But you don’t need a load of Keir Starmers.”
Speaking to the i’s podcast, Labour’s plan for power, she added: “You can’t make a jigsaw if all the pieces are exactly the same. It has to have different bits to link up, and that’s the crucial bit for me. If we want to be a successful Labour government, we have to be diverse.”
Her comments follow years of speculation about tensions between Ms Rayner and Sir Keir after the Labour leader tried to demote his deputy in a 2021 reshuffle.
She has since described their relationship as an “arranged marriage” which has evolved over time.
Ms Rayner said this summer: “Mine and Keir’s relationship has evolved as well. I often talk about it as an arranged marriage. We were both elected by the membership differently and independently.
“We have worked constructively together and we continue to do so because me and Keir both know that we need a Labour government and we need that change in this country.”
In September, Ms Rayner was handed the housing, levelling up and workers’ rights brief in a significant strengthening of her position in the party.
On Friday, she opened up about her “win some, lose some” relationship with Sir Keir, saying it is her job to challenge the Labour leader.
She said: “We have to be challenging to each other, and people can have different opinions on what we should do.
“But equally we have to then settle on a position. I don’t agree with Keir every time, me and Keir have hit a policy issue, but some I win, some I lose.
“We’re a political movement and we’re a party that wants to govern. So there is a balance.”
And she called for more weight to be given to women in the Labour Party and in politics more broadly.
Ms Rayner pointed to Covid inquiry hearings which have revealed a dearth of female voices in the room as key decisions were taken during the pandemic, adding: “Nobody thought about how it was going to affect women.”
She told the podcast: “We have got to keep challenging ourselves, both with practical steps, but also by tackling our biases. Because you need someone to tap you on the shoulder sometimes and go, ‘Hey, it’s great that you spoke for 50 minutes in this meeting, but see that woman in the corner over there? She’s not spoken once, bring her into the conversation’.
“There’s lots of challenges and reasons why we don’t have women in positions of power, but it’s not like, ‘Right, I’ve got 50 per cent [women Labour MPs] tick, done’. We’ve got to go out there and continually work at making sure that people can see a path for them to get there.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies