Diane Abbott has appeared to mock the appearance of a journalist who wrote an article by Tory MPs that the deputy Labour leader tried to distract Boris Johnson with her legs by crossing and uncrossing them.
The Mail on Sunday published an article written by Glen Owen, who reported on claims by Tory MPs that the deputy Labour leader tried to distract Boris Johnson with her legs by crossing and uncrossing them.
The article included a quote from one MP saying Rayner “knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks”.
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will meet the Mail on Sunday’s editor David Dillon and political editor Glen Owen over the article, which has been universally debunked as "misogynistic".
Taking to Twitter, former frontbencher Abbott said it was "interesting" Owen felt "entitled" to judge females MPs on their appearances.
"This is Glen Owen the Mail on Sunday journalist who wrote the ridiculously misogynistic story about Angela Rayner and her legs," she tweeted.
"Interesting that he feels entitled to judge female MPs by their looks."
Rayner said on Tuesday that the Mail On Sunday went ahead with publishing the article based on comments from anonymous Conservatives despite warnings from Labour officials that they were “completely untrue”.
Speaking on ITV’s Lorraine, Rayner said: “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.”
The Labour frontbencher said she was “really down” about the article and had to prepare her children for its claims.
She said 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,” she added.
She also said the article insinuated she must be “thick” because she went to a comprehensive school and she is “promiscuous” because she had a child when she was 16.
“I felt it was quite offensive to people from my background,” she added.
The MP for Ashton-under-Lyne suggested a wider cultural shift is needed after Johnson condemned the “misogynistic tripe” published on Sunday.
“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,” she said.
She was also puzzled over the picture used to illustrate the article, saying: “It was a John Lewis tailored dress – for me that’s quite posh.”
Rayner wore a trouser suit for her appearance on TV on Tuesday, saying she did not want to be “judged for what I wear”.
“I wanted to be defiant as well because I don’t think that women should be told how to dress, but I didn’t want to distract from the fact that, actually, it’s not about my legs.
“Because I feel like I’m being judged for what I wear, rather than what I’m saying to you and how I come across.”
Johnson vowed that the MPs behind the claims would face “the terrors of the Earth” if they are identified, though this seems unlikely as journalists protect their sources.
Government minister James Heappey backed Hoyle meeting the Mail on Sunday's editor, telling Sky News: “If the speaker is going to put a shot across the bows about the way women in parliament are being reported, that’s a good thing.
“I have no doubt he is protecting freedom of speech and he won’t want to see that impinged but I do think that Westminster has got itself into a mess and it looks awful."
Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Mail on Sunday, has declined to comment.