Can we all calm down about Angela Rayner’s legs?
Yes, the Mail on Sunday’s story was sexist drivel. But the backlash has gone too far.
It’s not just spiralling inflation that’s taking us back to the 1970s. Old-school sexism, complete with innuendo and insinuation, has reared its ugly head, too. Anonymous Tory MPs have accused Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, of deliberately uncrossing her legs in order to throw Boris Johnson ‘off his stride’ during Prime Minister’s Questions. How they managed to keep a straight face while spilling this ‘news’ to the Mail on Sunday is anyone’s guess. But the paper ran with the story, comparing Rayner’s leg action to Sharon Stone’s famous reveal in the film Basic Instinct. Only with underwear. It’s a gross accusation and one Rayner has vehemently denied.
The Mail on Sunday’s piece was truly scurrilous. Personally, I was far more offended by the cheap class prejudice on display than the sexism. Rayner is described as a ‘comprehensive school-educated Labour MP’ in contrast to Old Etonian Boris Johnson. And apparently, it’s Rayner’s lack of Oxford Union debating-chamber experience that means she has to resort to flashing her underwear to win debates. It’s toe-curling stuff.
Quite who thought it was a good idea to rehabilitate the kind of sexism best left buried with Benny Hill is anyone’s guess. The Conservative MPs who allegedly spoke to the Mail on Sunday were too cowardly to put their names to such a salacious accusation. It is hard to see who gains from the story. It inadvertently paints Boris Johnson as a lecherous fool – his Oxford debating-society training clearly didn’t do him much good if he is really thrown off track by a woman showing her legs.