LONDON (Associated Press) – Women from across British politics called on Monday for action to tackle misogyny after a newspaper published a story accusing the deputy opposition leader of trying to “distract” the prime minister during debates by cutting off her legs and jaws.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper quoted an unidentified Conservative MP as saying Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner tried to steer Prime Minister Boris Johnson “in his path” while sitting across from him in the House of Commons. The article likened it to a scene in the 1992 thriller Basic Instinct in which Sharon Stone was questioned by police.
Reiner accused “Boris Johnson fans” of using “desperate and perverted smear”.
“I stand accused of a ‘ploy’ to distract the ‘helpless PM – of being a woman, having legs and getting dressed,'” she wrote on Twitter.
“Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day – and I’m no different.”
Rayner, who hails from a working-class family in northern England and left school when she was 16, contrasts sharply with Johnson, who was educated at the elite private school Eton and Oxford University. Johnson sometimes struggled to dodge her attacks during the debates.
The Prime Minister condemned the article, writing on Twitter: “As much as I disagree with Angela Rayner on almost every political issue, I respect her as a Member of Parliament and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today.”
Johnson said on Monday that he reached out to Rayner about the article, which he described as “the most appalling burden of sexual tripe and misogyny.”
He said the anonymous lawmaker who made the “Basic Instinct” comments would face the “horrors of the earth” if identified.
It’s absolutely unbearable, that kind of thing,” Johnson told British broadcasters.
More than a century after the election of Britain’s first female MP, women made up 34% of the 650 members of the House of Commons. Long known for its lively and masculine atmosphere, Parliament is now a much more diverse place.
Some say the change didn’t go far enough. Several female politicians said the article was an extreme example of the sexism they face daily.
“I hope some good comes out of this awful article in The Mail on Sunday, and that is that people see what it is in Parliament and people are calling for misogyny and sexism for what it is and that we get some change because we should,” Labor lawmaker Rachel Reeves said. That Angela and any other deputy would put up with this kind of rubbish.”
Senior conservatives also denounced the comments. “No woman in politics should put up with this,” Health Minister Sajid Javid tweeted.
Conservative MP Caroline Knox, who chairs Parliament’s Women and Equality Committee, said she had asked the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsey Hoyle, to assign the blame to Glenn Owen, the journalist who wrote the article.
Associated Newspapers, which publishes The Mail on Sunday, declined to comment.
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