The Speaker of the House of Commons had demanded to speak with the editor of the Mail on Sunday after outrage at a story claiming the Deputy Labour leader was deliberately trying to distract Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions. The paper quoted an anonymous Tory MP who claimed Ms Rayner had admitted to crossing and uncrossing her legs.
There was outrage across Westminster at the accusations, with MPs on all sides of the House voicing anger for the misogynistic report.
In the face of demands from some MPs for the journalist who wrote the story to be banned from Parliament, on Monday Sir Lindsay said he had arranged a meeting to discuss the claims.
Sir Lindsay described the comments as “demeaning, offensive to women in Parliament”, adding they could “only deter women who might be considering standing for election to the detriment of us all”.
However, last night Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon confirmed he would not be attending.
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He said journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.
In a letter to Sir Lindsay, he wrote: “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.”
Sir Lindsay said he was a “staunch believer and protector of Press freedom” and that he had organised the meeting to “just ask that we are all a little kinder”.
He said in a statement: “I am a staunch believer and protector of Press freedom, which is why when an MP asked me to remove the pass of a sketch writer last week for something he had written, I said ‘no’.
“I firmly believe in the duty of reporters to cover Parliament, but I would also make a plea – nothing more – for the feelings of all MPs and their families to be considered, and the impact on their safety, when articles are written.
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“I would just ask that we are all a little kinder.
“That is what I wanted to talk about at tomorrow’s meeting.”
Ms Rayner yesterday appeared on ITV’s Lorraine to discuss the article, saying she had pleaded with the paper not to run the story.
“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’,” she said.
“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.”
Receiving support from MPs of all colours, Sir Keir Starmer described the attacks as a “new low”, while Mr Johnson said she thought “it was the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe”.
The Prime Minister privately got in touch with Ms Rayner to explain he had not authorised the insults.