The Mail on Sunday’s editor has rejected a meeting with the House of Commons speaker after a story that accused Angela Rayner of “distracting” Boris Johnson with her legs.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle had called the newspaper’s editor, David Dillon, to a meeting after it ran the story, which has been widely condemned as sexist by MPs of all political parties and prompted discussion about misogyny in Westminster.
But the Daily Mail appeared to double down on the piece, which quoted unnamed senior Tories claiming Labour’s deputy leader used her legs to “distract” the prime minister in the Commons and accused her of “a fully clothed parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct”.
The Mail claimed Dillon and the Mail on Sunday’s political editor Glen Owen, whose byline appeared next to the story, had rejected the Speaker’s invitation to a meeting on Wednesday “in the name of a free press”.
In response to Hoyle, Dillon said journalists should “not take instruction in the House of Commons, however august they may be”, adding that the newspaper “deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms”.
The article, which Rayner said she had “begged” the Mail on Sunday not to run, has sparked outrage from parliamentarians across the political spectrum since its publication at the weekend.
The Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, the chair of the women and equalities committee, wrote to Hoyle asking him to consider revoking the Commons pass of the piece’s author.
However, Hoyle – who met with Rayner on Monday – suggested it would not be right to remove his pass.
Speaking before the meeting was rejected, he said: “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.
“I would just ask that we are all a little kinder.”
Rayner told ITV’s Lorraine on Tuesday that she had told the Mail on Sunday: “This is disgusting. It’s completely untrue. Please don’t run a story like that.”
Conservative whips have claimed they will try to get to the bottom of which Tory MP made the comments about Rayner.
In Basic Instinct, Stone plays a violent psychopathic killer, who in its best-remembered scene briefly flashes her vulva while being interrogated by a police detective played by Michael Douglas.