Boris Johnson is understood to have sent a private message to Labour’s Angela Rayner after condemning a newspaper report where unnamed Tories said she crosses and uncrosses her legs to distract him during PMQs
Tory MPs responsible for making sexist slurs about Angela Rayner in a right-wing newspaper could be disciplined.
Technology minister Chris Philp said he was “appalled” by a story in the Mail on Sunday where unnamed Tories suggested Labour’s deputy leader crossed and uncrossed her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions to distract Boris Johnson.
The report likened her tactics a fully-clothed equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.
It also also quoted MPs attacking Ms Rayner’s PMQs debating skills – saying “she knows can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training”.
Ms Rayner, who is widely regarded as a strong Commons performer when she stands in for Keir Starmer, branded the report “desperate” and “perverted”.
The story triggered a wave of condemnation over sexism and snobbery from across the political divide, including from Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister is understood to have texted Ms Rayner directly to express his condemnation of the report.
Mr Philp told Sky News: “Nobody should have to suffer the kind of misogynistic abuse that sentiment amounts to.
“If it ever comes out (who is responsible), I would imagine they would be subject to discipline.
“I think they (the Government whips) will be looking at whether they know who said this.
“I think everybody is appalled by the misogynistic sentiment.”
On Sunday, Mr Johnson tweeted: “As much as I disagree with Angela Rayner on almost every political issue I respect her as a parliamentarian and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today.”
But just 15 minutes later Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a close Johnson ally, undermined the sincerity of the message by copying it word for word in her own tweet.
Mr Philp insisted that it was not surprising the pair had used exactly the same words in tweets they sent denouncing the claims.
“They share the same view. They have reached the same view and they have used the same words.
“There is nothing surprising that two colleagues in Government have the same view and use the same words.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the “outrageous” claims shone a spotlight on the sexism and misogyny faced by female MPs.
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”.
Ms Reeves said the Conservative Party should be “talking long and hard to their MPs about what sort of things they should be saying and briefing to journalists” but declined to say if Labour would complain to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Tory MP Caroline Nokes, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, has written to Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle to complain about the report and to demand the journalist’s lobby pass is revoked.
It comes after it emerged that three members of the cabinet and two shadow cabinet ministers were reported to the parliamentary watchdog set up after the #MeToo scandal.
Some 56 MPs have been referred to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) in relation to 70 separate complaints, according to the Sunday Times.