Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner blasts ‘sexist’ Mail on Sunday ‘gutter journalism’

Boris Johnson said he deplored the “misogyny” directed at Sir Keir Starmer’s deputy

<p>Angela Rayner has hit out at a ‘sexist’ piece written by the Mail on Sunday (image: Getty Images)</p>

Angela Rayner has hit out at a ‘sexist’ piece written by the Mail on Sunday (image: Getty Images)

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner is known for her punchy speeches and tough talking.

Sir Keir Starmer’s number two has frequently clashed with her Tory opponents.

Sign up to our LiverpoolWorld Today newsletter

But Ms Rayner has received cross-party support today (24 April), including from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after a Mail on Sunday article accused her of using underhand tactics at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

The Mail on Sunday said Angela Rayner uses ‘Basic Instinct style’ tactics to put off the PM at PMQs (image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

So what did this article say - and why has it been criticised?

Here’s what you need to know.

What did Mail on Sunday say about Angela Rayner?

In an article published overnight, Mail on Sunday political editor Glen Owen reported claims from several Conservative MPs that Angela Rayner “mischievously” tries to impede Boris Johnson at PMQs by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

The newspaper said the claims drew a parallel to an infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct during which Sharon Stone’s character is seen crossing and uncrossing her legs.

One anonymous Tory MP was quoted in the article as saying: “She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.

“She has admitted as much when enjoying drinks with us on the [Commons] terrace.”

The piece also contrasted Ms Rayner’s background as a former care worker who left school after becoming pregnant at 16, with Boris Johnson’s Old Etonian roots.

How did Angela Rayner respond to Mail on Sunday article?

The article quoted a spokesperson for Angela Rayner describing the allegation as “categorically untrue”.

But the deputy leader of the opposition has gone further today in a series of Tweets criticising the article and the anonymous Tory MPs who contributed to it.

Describing it as “gutter journalism”, Ms Rayner wrote: “Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day - and I’m no different.”

Directing her fire at the unnamed Conservative MPs who were quoted in the Mail on Sunday piece, she said: “Boris Johnson’s cheerleaders have resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears in their doomed attempts to save his skin.

“They know exactly what they are doing. The lies they are telling.”

She accused Mr Johnson of “dragging the Conservative Party into the sewer” and said both he and his MPs “have a big problem with women in public life”.

Ms Rayner also criticised the Mail on Sunday for the “clear” implication of the “potted biography” it gave her.

Later in the morning, Boris Johnson appeared to deny the claims and gave his backing to Ms Rayner.

The PM tweeted: “As much as I disagree with @AngelaRayner on almost every political issue I respect her as a parliamentarian and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today.”

His message was quote-Tweeted by Ms Rayner, who wrote “thank you”.

Mr Johnson’s comments were echoed by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and former Cabinet Minister Andrea Leadsom, as well as Tory Chair Oliver Dowden who told the BBC it was “a totally ludicrous story”.

Mr Dowden was himself accused of not going far enough with his criticism by both Ms Rayner and shadow treasury minister Tulip Siddiq.