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May 5, 2022

IPSO rejects all 6,000 complaints re MoS coverage of Angela Rayner

By Dominic Ponsford

Press regulator IPSO has rejected all 6,000 complaints about the Mail on Sunday’s coverage of Angela Rayner because none of them were from her personally or her representatives.

The regulator set out its reasons in more detail here.

Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon refused to meet the Commons speaker to explain his paper’s coverage.

He said journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle claimed he wanted the meeting to urge the journalists to be “a little kinder” and suggest journalists should be more considerate towards MPs and their families when reporting on Westminster.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said he was “uncomfortable” with the idea of politicians summoning journalists for a dressing down.

The Mail on Sunday’s page five lead story about Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, written by political editor Glen Owen, has been widely criticised.

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The story had prompted more than 6,000 complaints to press regulator IPSO.

The article said: “All is fair in love, war and Commons duels with Boris Johnson, if the claims of Tory MPs are to be believed.

“Conservatives have claimed that Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner likes to put Mr Johnson ‘off his stride’ in the chamber by crossing and uncrossing her legs when they clash at Prime Minister’s Questions.”

It went on to quote one unnamed MP as saying: “She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks. She has admitted as much when enjoying drinks with us on the [Commons] terrace.”

[Read more: Who is David Dillon? Low-profile Mail on Sunday editor takes centre stage]

Rayner told ITV on Tuesday morning that she asked the Mail on Sunday not to run the story when she was asked by the paper to comment, saying: “This is disgusting. It’s completely untrue. Please don’t run a story like that … I was with my teenage sons … trying to prepare my children for seeing things online. They don’t want to see their mum portrayed that way and I felt really down about that.”

The Mail on Sunday has since defending its reporting and said that Angela Rayner herself was the source of claims she crossed and uncrossed her legs to distract Johnson, in lighthearted banter with Tory MPs.

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask whether Owen should have a parliamentary Lobby pass. However Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has appeared to suggest he would not revoke the pass.

On Monday afternoon Hoyle told the Commons he felt the article was “misogynistic and offensive” and that he was arranging a meeting with the chair of the press lobby and Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon. He was separately meeting Rayner on Monday evening.

However in Wednesday’s Daily Mail, David Dillon announced he had refused to meet the Commons Speaker because it appeared he had already “passed judgment” on what happened with his Commons statement.

He said: “The Mail on Sunday deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms. However journalists must be free to report what they are told by MPs about conversations which take place in the House of Commons, however unpalatable some may find them.”

The paper said it has also found four MPs in total who say Rayner herself was the source of the claim that she uncrossed her legs in the Commons to distract the Prime Minister. And it has found a podcast recording from January in which Rayner made reference to being compared to Sharon Stone in the film Basic Instinct while finding it “mortifying”.

[Latest ABCs: David Dillon’s Mail on Sunday had circulation of almost 750,000 in March]

Press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) had received more than 5,000 complaints over the article as of 9.30am on Monday 25 April. Complainants have alleged breaches under Clause 1 (accuracy), Clause 3 (harassment) and Clause 12 (discrimination) of the Editors’ Code.

The latter states: “The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.”

Anyone can complain to IPSO about accuracy issues.

On other clauses, an individual has to be directly affected by the article. IPSO also allows complaints from “representative groups… where the alleged breach of the Code is significant and there is a public interest in doing so”.

Labour MP David Lammy said: “The Mail on Sunday ‘story’ is sexist trash designed to put women off politics. The journalists and grubby politicians who made it happen should be utterly ashamed.”

Angela Rayner said on Twitter: “Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day – and I’m no different. This morning’s is the latest dose of gutter journalism courtesy of @MoS_Politics.”

Campaign group Stop Funding Hate has begun targeting advertisers who appear alongside the online version of the Mail on Sunday article and it appears to calling for a wholesale boycott of the brand by identifying any advertisers on Twitter.

However others have said that the story exposes a truth about parliamentary life.

TalkTV political editor Kate McCann said: “You see all those female MPs and journalists tweeting their rage at this story? It’s because nearly every single one of us has experienced something like this in the course of doing our jobs – often repeatedly – and we are utterly, utterly sick of it.”

And Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “It’s a great sadness that I’m not surprised. This sort of sexism and misogyny is the sort of rubbish that female MPs and also female staffers in the House of Commons have to put up with every single day.

“And when I hear a minister just now say I haven’t heard this sort of thing before, talk to your female colleagues, talk to the women who work in your office because a lot of them would have experienced this sort of thing.”

Technology minister Chris Philp has said that if the Tory MP responsible for misogynistic comments about Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner is identified they will face “serious consequences”.

Philp said he expected efforts would be made to find out who spoke to Owen but suggested the chances of success were limited.

“I think that if anyone is identified having views like those that were expressed, which are just outrageous and misogynistic, then I would expect serious consequences to follow,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“I expect efforts will be made to identify who is responsible for those views. But journalists fiercely guard their sources and I doubt Glen Owen will be volunteering that information.

“I think there is ongoing, active work to make sure anyone holding offensive views, including the misogyny we saw demonstrated over the weekend, is called out and action is taken.”

Labour MP Harriet Harman has called for a change to the Commons rules to make misogynistic, homophobic and racist briefings a breach of the code of conduct: “I don’t buy the argument that it was a casual remark. When an MP briefs a journalist they are doing something as part of their work. This is a deliberate way of undermining women MPs,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.

A version of this story was originally published on Monday 25 April. It was later updated on 26 and 27 April and 5 May to include new developments.

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