The editor of The Mail on Sunday has refused to attend a meeting with the Commons Speaker over the paper’s controversial report about Angela Rayner.
The deputy Labour leader has hit out at the sexism and classism she says were behind the newspaper publishing “disgusting” claims by Tory MPs that she tries to distract the Prime Minister by crossing and uncrossing her legs.
Ms Rayner said she was “crestfallen” over the claims and suggested a wider cultural shift is needed after Boris Johnson condemned the “misogynistic tripe” published on Sunday.
Who is David Dillion?
David Dillion is the editor of The Mail on Sunday who was appointed following the sacking of Daily Mail editor Geordie Greig.
Mr Dillion joined the paper from the Daily Express in 2001 and was news editor for several years before being promoted to executive editor, and later to editor.
His first public statement as editor came this week as he refused to attend a meeting with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle following the publication of a page five lead story comparing Ms Rayner to Sharon Stone in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.
What has David Dillion said?
Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs on Monday he had arranged a meeting with Mr Dillion following the outcry over the Rayner report.
In his response to the Speaker, published in the Daily Mail, Mr Dillon said he would not be attending as journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.
In his letter, he 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.”
Mr Dillon added that while the newspaper had “the greatest possible respect both for your office and for Parliament [which] along with a free press they are the foundation stones of British democracy”, the invitation would be declined.
Sir Lindsay said in a statement earlier that he wanted to use the meeting to ask that “we are all a little kinder”, issuing a plea to reporters to consider the feelings of MPs and their families when covering stories in Parliament.
He made the point that he had only recently rejected calls to remove the parliamentary pass from another journalist after some MPs called for The Mail on Sunday’s political editor Glen Owen – who wrote the report about Ms Rayner – to have his pass removed.
He said: “I am a staunch believer and protector of press freedom, which is why when an MP asked me to remove the pass of a sketch writer last week for something he had written, I said ‘no’.
“I firmly believe in the duty of reporters to cover Parliament, but I would also make a plea – nothing more – for the feelings of all MPs and their families to be considered, and the impact on their safety, when articles are written. I would just ask that we are all a little kinder.
“That is what I wanted to talk about at tomorrow’s meeting.”
What has Angela Rayner said about the claims?
Ms Rayner said on Tuesday that the newspaper went ahead with publishing the article, based on comments from anonymous Tory MPs, despite warnings from Labour officials that they were “completely untrue”.
She said during an appearance on ITV’s Lorraine programme that she had appealed to the Mail on Sunday not to run the story.
She explained: “I’ve been overwhelmed because when I heard the story was coming out and we rebutted it instantly… like this is disgusting, it’s completely untrue, please don’t run a story like that.
“All I worry about when I’m at the despatch box is doing a good job and being able to do justice to my constituents and the work I’m doing, so I was just really crestfallen that somebody had said that to a paper and a paper was reporting that.
“It wasn’t just about me as a woman, saying I was using the fact I’m a woman against the Prime Minister – which I think is quite condescending to the Prime Minister and shows you what his MPs think about his behaviour – but it was steeped in classism as well.”
The article included a quote from one MP, saying Ms Rayner “knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks”.
The MP for Asthon-under-Lyne added that the article insinuated she must be “thick” because she attended a comprehensive school and that she is “promiscuous” because she had a child when she was 16.
She added: “I felt it was quite offensive to people from my background.
“We have got to teach our sons to be respectful of women and we’ve got to teach our women to be confident about themselves as well.”
Mr Johnson vowed that the MPs behind the claims would face “the terrors of the Earth” if they are identified, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned the “disgusting, rank sexism and rank misogyny” aimed at Ms Rayner.
Sir Keir said: “I think all of us have got a responsibility not just to call this out but to renew our determination to change the culture in parliament because this is awful for Angela.
“I’ve got a young girl and I worry about her seeing this environment. We all have to change it.”