Boris Johnson has promised to punish the Conservative MP who briefed a newspaper that Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner was putting the prime minister off his stride by crossing and uncrossing her legs in the House of Commons. Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle has summoned the editor of the Mail on Sunday over the report, which has been condemned by all parties as misogynistic.
“I share the views expressed by a wide range of members, including I believe the prime minister, that yesterday’s article was reporting unsubstantiated claims [that were] misogynistic and offensive. Those are what we believe. I express my sympathy to [Rayner], subject to this type of comment. In being demeaning, offensive to women in parliament, it can only deter women who might be considering standing for election to the detriment of us all,” Mr Hoyle said.
Mr Johnson, during a visit to Bury for the local election campaign, said he had sent a text to Ms Rayner, during which he described the attack on her as misogynist tripe. Quoting King Lear, he promised to punish the MP who made the remarks if their identity were to become known.
“If we ever find who is responsible for it, I don’t know what we will do, but they will be the terrors of the Earth. It’s totally intolerable, that kind of thing,” he said.
“I have to say I thought it was the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe. I immediately got in touch with Angela and we had a very friendly exchange.”
The report cited a Conservative MP as claiming that Ms Rayner could not compete with the “training” Mr Johnson received at the Oxford Union debating society but that she deployed “other skills” to distract him. In fact, Ms Rayner is generally perceived to be one of the best debaters at the dispatch box, whereas the prime minister’s performances in the Commons have received poor reviews.
On Sunday, Ms Rayner, an MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, said: “Boris Johnson’s cheerleaders have resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said he believed the culture in parliament was sexist and that it needed be changed.
“I actually think it is a culture thing and therefore going after one or two individuals isn’t enough. We have got to change the culture in parliament. The culture in parliament, it is sexist, it is misogynist and we need to change it because for politicians like Angela Rayner, they are are absolutely entitled to make their political arguments in the same way as everybody else,” he told ITV’s This Morning.
Mr Johnson dismissed suggestions he was no longer an asset for the Conservatives as the party braces for losses at local elections on May 5th.
“I think that the greatest asset the Conservatives have are Conservative values and the way that Conservative councillors up and down the country deliver taxpayer value – that’s what really matters. And I think that’s what people will be focused on, and we will be fighting for every vote right up till polling day,” he said.