Boris Johnson is “uncomfortable” with the idea of politicians inviting journalists to explain their stories, Downing Street has said after the editor of The Mail On Sunday declined to meet the Commons Speaker to publish an article in his newspaper about Angela to discuss Rayner.
Peaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs on Monday he had arranged a meeting with The Mail On Sunday’s David Dillon after an outcry over claims in the article that the Labor deputy leader had crossed and uncrossed her legs to distract Boris Johnson in the House of Commons.
In his reply to the Speaker, published in the Daily Mail, Mr Dillon said he and his political editor Glen Owen would not be attending because journalists “should not take instructions from officials in the House of Commons, however lofty they may be”.
Downing Street gave the speaker a thinly veiled rebuke for his attempt to call Mr Dillon.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson – a former journalist – would “not want any perception of politicians trying in any way to curb or control what a free press is trying to report”.
The spokesman added: “The Prime Minister is uncomfortable with the idea of our free press being convened by politicians.
“We have a free press in this country and reporters must be free to report what they are told, however they see fit.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail published Ms Rayner’s comments on a light-hearted political podcast in January, in which she discussed comparisons between her dress and behavior at the Prime Minister’s questions and a scene in the film Basic Instinct starring Sharon Stone.
The mail today implies that I kind of enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs.
They are humiliating and deeply hurtful.
– Angela Rayner 🌹 (@AngelaRayner) April 27, 2022
Speaking on comedian Matt Forde’s The Political Party, Ms Rayner said she was “shamed” by an internet meme that compared her actions to the scene where Stone’s character crosses and opens her legs in front of detectives without wearing underwear.
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She said: “There’s an air of misogyny…. Every time I do a PMQ someone has an opinion on what I’m wearing.
“Did you see the meme on Sharon Stone like I did the last few PMQs? I was ashamed.”
Forde asked her if the suggestion was that she “do this to distract Boris,” to which she replied, “It doesn’t take much, does it? I do not need that.”
After the comments were reported, Ms Rayner said on Wednesday: “I told (Forde) in January that the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is.
“As women, we sometimes try to push aside the sexism we face, but that doesn’t make it okay.
“The Mail today implies that I kind of enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs. I don’t They are humiliating and deeply hurtful.
“‘She really loves it’ is a typical excuse that so many women are familiar with. But it can’t be women’s responsibility to call it out every time. I don’t need anyone to explain sexism to me – I experience it every day.
“Boris Johnson has pledged that he would unleash ‘the horrors of the earth’ on Tory MPs who are spreading this despicable sexism.
“I hope to hear what he will do about it today.”
In the report that sparked the row, The Mail On Sunday quoted an unnamed MP as saying: “She knows she can’t match Boris’ Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills that he lacks.
“She admitted as much while enjoying drinks with us on the (Commons) terrace.”
In his letter refusing to meet the Speaker, Mr Dillon wrote that “following an investigation by the Conservative Party, three other MPs who were part of the group on the House of Commons Terrace, one of them a woman, came forward to confirm this report on the remarks by Angela Rayner given to us by the MP who was the source of last Sunday’s story”.
Sir Lindsay said he wanted to use the meeting – which was scheduled for Wednesday morning – to ask: “We’re all being a little bit kinder”, and urged reporters to consider the feelings of MPs and their families when covering stories in the report to Parliament.
He pointed out that he recently rejected calls to have another journalist’s parliamentary passport withdrawn after some MPs asked Mr Owen, who wrote the report on Ms Rayner, to have his passport removed.
“I firmly believe in the duty of reporters to cover Parliament, but I would also like to advocate no longer taking into account the feelings of all MPs and their families and considering the implications for their safety when writing articles.
“I just want to ask that we all be a little kinder,” Sir Lindsay said.
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