Angela Rayner has said that the Mail on Sunday article, which quoted anonymous senior Conservative MPs comparing her to a character in the 1992 film Basic Instinct, was not just sexist but also “steeped in classism”.
Speaking on ITV’s Lorraine this morning, the deputy Labour leader told viewers that she had asked the newspaper not to run the story and had felt “really sad” about having to prepare her children to see the piece online.
The Mail on Sunday reported on Sunday morning that Tory MPs accused Rayner of distracting Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions by crossing and uncrossing her legs, “deploying a fully-clothed parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film”.
Rayner explained that when she was informed the story would be published, she “rebutted it instantly” telling journalists at the Mail on Sunday: “This is disgusting, it’s completely untrue. Please don’t run a story like that.”
She said she was “really crestfallen” that “somebody had said that to a paper and the paper was reporting that”, adding that she was “fearful of the story coming out”.
“I just thought, is that what people expect and think about what I do,” she told Lorraine. “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 that I’m doing.”
“Actually the response from the public, from all political parties, from leadership across the whole political spectrum, has been to condemn it,” Rayner said, adding: “That’s heartened me.”
The article described Rayner as a “socialist grandmother who left school at 16 while pregnant and with no qualifications before becoming a care worker”. It also noted that she was comprehensively educated while the Prime Minister is an “old Etonian”.
“It wasn’t just about me as woman, saying that I was using the fact that I’m a woman against the Prime Minister – which I think is quite condescending to the Prime Minister as well and shows you what his MPs think about his behaviour,” Rayner said.
“It was also steeped in classism as well and about where I come from and how I grew up and the fact that I must be thick and I must be stupid because I went to a comprehensive school.”
She added: “They talk about my background because I had a child when I was young, as if to say I’m promiscuous. That was the insinuation, which I felt was quite offensive for people from my background.”