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Angela Rayner: what did Mail on Sunday article say about Labour deputy leader - and how has she responded?

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

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.

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

The House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle summoned the MoS editor David Dillon to Parliament to discuss the report he has branded “demeaning” and “offensive” - but Mr Dillon refused to attend, with sister title the Daily Mail’s front page on Wednesday (27 April) accusing the Speaker of ‘interfering’ with a free press.

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 the original Mail on Sunday 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.”

Angela Rayner said the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ‘dragging the Conservative Party into the sewer’ (image: AFP/Getty Images)

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”.

It has since emerged Ms Rayner had pleaded with the Mail on Sunday to not publish the story, which her boss Sir Keir Starmer branded “rank sexism”.

After the MoS went ahead with the story, the deputy leader of the opposition responded 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.

A few hours after Angela Rayner’s thread went live, Boris Johnson appeared to deny claims he was responsible 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”.

On Monday (25 April), the BBC reported Mr Johnson had also sent a private text message to the Labour MP to reiterate what he had said publicly.

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”.

Technology Minister Chris Philp told Sky News he was “appalled” by the story and the quotes within it, and said he expected Conservative Party whips would “discipline” the MPs behind the comments if their identities were uncovered.

Former Daily Mail political columnist Peter Oborne also waded into the row, describing the story as “shameful”.

How has Angela Rayner sexism row developed?

Despite the backlash against its report, the Mail on Sunday and its sister title the Daily Mail have doubled down on their original story.

MoS editor David Dillon had been summoned to see the Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle to discuss the report, alongside chair of the Parliamentary lobby - a political journalist organisation - Kitty Donaldson.

However, Wednesday 27 April’s Daily Mail reported Mr Dillon would not be attending as he said journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.

In a letter to the Speaker reported on by the Daily Mail, Mr Dillon wrote: “The Mail on Sunday deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms.

“However journalists must be free to report what they are told by MPs about conversations which take place in the House of Commons, however unpalatable some may find them.”

Sir Lindsay said in a statement that he wanted to use the meeting to ask that “we are all a little kinder”, but added he supported a free press and would not be revoking the pass of the journalist who wrote the story - The Mail on Sunday’s political editor Glen Owen.