Angela Rayner: what did Boris Johnson say about Mail on Sunday’s Basic Instinct leg crossing claim?

Angela Rayner has branded the article as ‘gutter journalism’ and has said that Tory MPs have ‘resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears’

Boris Johnson has written to Angela Rayner to insist “misogynistic” claims reportedly made about her by an unidentified Tory MP were not in his name.

The news comes after the Deputy Labour Leader was reportedly accused by anonymous Conservative MPs of trying to distract the Prime Minister during PMQs by crossing and uncrossing her legs, likening the act to that of the infamous scene from Basic Instinct.

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This is everything you need to know.

What was said about Angela Rayner?

In an article published over the weekend, Mail on Sunday political editor Glen Owen reported claims from several Tory MPs that Rayner “mischievously” tried to distract the Prime Minister at PMQs by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

The outlet said that the claims drew comparisons between Rayner shifting in her seat to that of the scene in Basic Instinct in which Sharon Stone’s character is seen crossing and uncrossing her legs without wearing any underwear.

Sharon Stone in the 1992 film Basic Instinct (Photo: Carolco Pictures)

In the headline of the article published online, it says that “MPs claim Labour deputy leader likes to put PM “off his stride” by crossing and uncrossing her legs at PMQs” and that Rayner “goads PM” with “gesture made famous by Sharon Stone”.

It said that Tory MPs have suggested that Rayner “likes to distract the PM when he is at the dispatch box by deploying a fully-clothed Parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct”.

Angela Rayner during a Labour Party conference on September 28, 2021 in Brighton, England (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

An unnamed 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.”

What has Boris Johnson said?

Johnson has reportedly reached out to Rayner to state that the claims made about her were not made in his name.

According to the Telegraph, the Prime Minister sent her a letter in response to the report made in the Mail on Sunday - a report which has been widely condemned.

Johnson wrote that the comments were “not in his name” and expressed his sympathy over the attack made by an unidentified Tory MP.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a press conference on April 22, 2022 in New Delhi, India (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Johnson also publicly addressed the issue on Twitter on Sunday (24 April), where he wrote: “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.”

However, Johnson was quickly called out in the replies to his tweet over the fact that Nadine Dorries, the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), tweeted the exact same message as Johnson, word for word.

One person wrote: “The WhatsApp group ‘copy and paste’ feel to this diminishes the sincerity somewhat. They really need new PR folk.”

Adil Ray, Good Morning Britain presenter, also tweeted a screenshot of the two tweets from Johnson and Dorries side by side, captioning the tweet as: “Err.”

What has Angela Rayner said?

Rayner responded to the article on Twitter, stating that “women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day - and I’m no different”, calling the article “gutter journalism”.

In a thread of nine tweets, Rayner said: “I stand accused of a “ploy” to “distract” the helpless PM - by being a woman, having legs and wearing clothes. I am conspiring to “put him off his stride”. The rest I won’t repeat - but you get the picture.

“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.

Deputy Labour Leader, Angela Rayner, at a regional conference in the Frederick Douglas Centre (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

“The potted biography is given - my comprehensive education, my experience as a care worker, my family, my class, my background. The implication is clear.

“But it is the PM who is dragging the Conservative Party into the sewer - and the anonymous Tory MPs doing his bidding are complicit. He and his cheerleaders clearly have a big problem with women in public life. They should be ashamed of themselves.

“I won’t be letter their vile lies deter me. Their attempts to harass and intimidate me will fail. I’ve been open about how I’ve had to struggle to get where I am today. I’m proud of my background, I’m proud of who I am and where I’m from - but it’s taken time.

“I hope this experience doesn’t put off a single person like me, with a background like mine from aspiring to participate in public life. That would break my heart. We need more people in politics with backgrounds like mine - and fewer as a hobby to help their mates.

Angela Rayner visiting the the Newcastle United Foundation’s Premier League Kicks programme on February 25, 2022 (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

“Thank you to so many of you for your messages of solidarity and support. For calling this out for what it is.

“You are making a stand in the name of decency - against those who would further coarsen, cheapen and debase our politics to benefit their own interests.

“We all deserve so much better.”

What else has been said about the article?

Rayner has received cross-party support following the article, with a number of ministers coming forward to condemn the claims.

On Sunday evening, the Tory chairman of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes, revealed she had written to Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, to suggest the journalist who wrote the story be formally censured.

The Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North told LBC the Tory MP sources behind the article should be “hanging their heads in shame”.

Caroline Nokes leaving 10 Downing Street after attending a Cabinet meeting in London on April 2, 2019 (Photo: ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier in the day she wrote on Twitter that “too many female MPs (of all parties)” have been on the “receiving end of vile” claims like those aimed at Rayner.

Sir Keir Starmer said the sexism displayed by those briefing the Sunday paper was a “disgraceful new low from a party mired in scandal and chaos”.

Tulip Siddiq, the Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said the accusations were “disgraceful”.

The Labour politician told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “At the end of the day, Angela Rayner is an MP who was elected on merit.

“To talk about the fact she is using her legs or her posture to manipulate the Prime Minister is ridiculous and I’m really upset about it.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid leaves 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting on March 15, 2022 in London, England (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “If an MP or MPs really said this then it’s utterly shameful.

“No woman in politics should have to put up with this.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the “outrageous” claims about Labour Deputy Leader shine a spotlight on other female MPs’ experiences of sexism and misogyny.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am sick and tired of the way that female MPs and women are treated in Parliament, and if this story, this outrageous slur on Angela gets change, that would be a good thing”.