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Crossfire

UK MPs slam ‘Basic Instinct’ slur against deputy Labour leader

After anonymous Conservatives claim Angela Rayner crosses and uncrosses her legs to distract PM, she pans ‘perverted smears’; Labour leader says sexism at ‘disgraceful new low’

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner watches as the leader of the British Labour Party Keir Starmer makes his keynote speech at the annual party conference in Brighton, England, September 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner watches as the leader of the British Labour Party Keir Starmer makes his keynote speech at the annual party conference in Brighton, England, September 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

British lawmakers have criticized a Sunday newspaper article that claimed Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner tried to put the prime minister “off his stride” during parliamentary debates by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

The Mail on Sunday said that anonymous Conservative MPs “have mischievously suggested that Ms. Rayner likes to distract British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he is at the dispatch box by deploying a fully-clothed parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film ‘Basic Instinct.'”

In the scene, Stone, who is not wearing underwear, crosses and uncrosses her legs to flummox detectives during an interrogation over a murder.

Rayner accused “Boris Johnson’s cheerleaders” of using “desperate, perverted smears.”

“I stand accused of a ‘ploy’ to “distract” the helpless PM — by being a woman, having legs and wearing clothes,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day — and I’m no different,” she said, calling the article “gutter journalism.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament in London, on March 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Rayner, who comes from a working-class family in northern England and left school when she was 16 and pregnant, makes a sharp contrast to Johnson, who was educated at the elite private school Eton and Oxford University.

Johnson has sometimes struggled to parry her attacks during debates.

Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted that “the sexism and misogyny peddled by the Tories is a disgraceful new low,” while Conservative minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News that it was a “totally ludicrous story.”

In this handout photo provided by UK Parliament, Shadow First Secretary Angela Rayner, speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London, September 16, 2020. (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament via AP)

Johnson condemned the article, writing on Twitter: “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.”

Labour legislator Rachel Reeves said there was a need for fundamental change in attitudes in the British parliament.

“I hope that some good can come out of this awful article in The Mail on Sunday, and that is that people see what it is like in Parliament and people call out this misogyny and sexism for what it is and that we get some change because Angela and no other MP should have to put up with this sort of rubbish,” Reeves said.

Conservative lawmaker Caroline Nokes, who heads Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, said she had asked Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle to censure Glen Owen, the journalist who wrote the article.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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