Minister Describes Sexist Briefings By Tory MPs As “Misogynistic Abuse”
Tech and Digital Economy Minister Chris Philp has said he felt “appalled” by unfounded sexist accusations from MPs in his party that Angela Rayner crosses and uncrosses her legs in front of Boris Johnson to distract him in the Commons.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Philp described the comments as amounting to “misogynistic abuse”.
“I was appalled that that sentiment was being expressed,” Philp said.
“It’s offensive, it’s misogynistic and the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers have been absolutely right to roundly condemn that sentiment and to offer support to Angela Rayner on this issue,” he added.
On Sunday morning, an article published in the Mail on Sunday cited anonymous Tory MPs suggesting the deputy Labour leader uses her legs as a tactical “ploy” to distract Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The story, written by Mail on Sunday political editor Glen Owen, quotes one MP saying: “She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.”
The piece also draws attention to Rayner's background, noting that before rising to become a respected MP and deputy leader of the opposition, she had left school aged 16 “while pregnant and with no qualifications”.
MPs from across the Commons have condemned the story, with Rayner describing it as a “perverted smear” used by Johnson allies “in their doomed attempts to save his skin”.
On Sunday the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet condemned the sexist briefing.
“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," Johnson said.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted the same statement, which drew criticism from some MPs who suggested the identical wording indicated the sentiment was less genuine.
Philp denied he has ever heard colleagues discuss Rayner in the manner of the Mail on Sunday article.
“I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that or even hint at it and if I did, I would be disgusted and appalled,” he told Sky News.
“Nobody should have to suffer the kind of misogynistic abuse which that sentiment amounts to,” he added.
Conservative chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes, confirmed on Sunday evening that she will be contacting Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle today, to whether Owen should be allowed to hold a parliamentary Lobby pass.
The former minister has been outspoken on the matter of sexism and sexual harassment in parliament.
“Too many female MPs of all parties [have] been on receiving end of vile articles in the Mail on Sunday and its ‘sister’ paper the Daily Mail,” she tweeted.
“Photos taken up skirts printed, called ‘ditzy’, used as click bait on the sidebar of shame, Prime Minister and First Minister photo with ‘Legs-It’ headline, any wonder we’re fed up.”
Speaking on Sky News on Monday morning, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves described the Mail on Sunday article as having the potential to deter "good people" from "putting themselves forward for parliament".
"This sort of rubbish that Angela has been subjected to, but many others as well, frankly puts off good people from putting themselves forward for parliament," Reeves said.
"And we don't want that."
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