Defiant Angela Rayner 'crestfallen' by Tory MP's sexist remarks but undeterred

Condemnation has been widespread, as Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports

Labour's Angela Rayner has told ITV she was "crestfallen" to see sexist comments about her quoted in a controversial newspaper article but the defiant deputy leader suggested she doesn't need diversion techniques to debate Boris Johnson.

The senior MP told the Lorraine programme that a "cultural shift" is needed after the Mail on Sunday article published comments made by an anonymous Tory MP, who accused her of crossing and uncrossing her legs to distract Mr Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions.

Ms Rayner said the article was "disgusting" and completely untrue but felt compelled to wear trousers for her TV appearance because "it's not about my legs".

"I didn't want people at home thinking 'Let's have a look to see what her legs are like and how short her skirt is or not'.

"Because I feel like I'm being judged for what I wear, rather than what I'm saying to you and how I come across."

The Mail on Sunday article has been widely condemned across the political spectrum, by the PM and several ministers, while the newspaper's editor has been summoned by the speaker of the House of Commons to discuss what he said were "misogynistic and offensive" claims about Ms Rayner.

Armed Forces minister James Heappey told ITV News the Tory MP who made the comments is an "idiot".

Female MPs should be "listened to based on the power of their arguments and their commitment to serve our country and their communities - not on what they're wearing," he said. "I'm so affronted by it because it reflects badly by all of us that are in Westminster and worse still, it risks putting women off from coming into public life."

Commons Leader Mark Spencer said anonymous Tory MP acted in an "inappropriate" way, but he did not think they broke any rule in the House.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the MP's comments were "offensive to women in Parliament and can only deter women who might be considering standing for election to the detriment of us all".

"That is why I have arranged a meeting with the chair of the press lobby, the editor of the Mail on Sunday to discuss the issue affecting our parliamentary community."

Associated Newspapers, which publishes The Mail on Sunday, has declined to comment.

Mr Spencer told the Commons Committee on Standards that he believed those speaking to the newspaper breached "lots" of the principles of public life, including "leadership" and "integrity".

But asked what rule they had broken, he said: "I don't suppose they've broken any rule in the House or committed a crime that could be charged in general society."

Harrient Harman, told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the rules of the House of Commons should be changed to make misogyny punishable by suspension.

"It brings shame on the House of Commons... what this is, of course, is a way of undermining senior women in politics," she said.

Ms Harman, who as the longest serving female MP is known as the Mother of the House, added: “There will be more women coming in and they will change things, but we’ve got to deal with this rump of Neanderthals.”

Ms Rayner told Lorraine she was "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of support for her but said "there's still so much more for us to do" to change the landscape for women.

"We have got to teach our sons to be respectful of women and we've got to teach our women to be confident about themselves as well," she said.

She also said the article was "steeped in classism", insinuating she must be "thick" because she went to a comprehensive school and she is "promiscuous" because she had a child when she was young.

The anonymous Tory MP quoted in the article is said to have told the paper: “She (Ms Rayner) knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.

“She has admitted as much when enjoying drinks with us on the (Commons) terrace.”

Ms Rayner, who went to a comprehensive school, said that suggestion was "absolute rubbish", adding "I think I hold my own" against the Eton-educated prime minister.

"I've always felt quite intimidated. I think women from my background do, we always think 'they're important, they know more than me' - and then you get in the room and realise, actually, they don't," she told ITV.

Prime Minister Johnson threatened the anonymous MP with "the terrors of the earth" if he ever finds out who they are.

He said he would "of course" seek to find out which Tory MP made the comments but did not give a timescale for carrying any investigation.

Speaking during a visit to Bury on Monday, Mr Johnson said he "immediately got in touch" with Ms Rayner after viewing the article, which he described as "the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe".

"If we ever find who is responsible for [the comments], I don't know what we will do, but they will be the terrors of the earth.

"It's totally intolerable, that kind of thing."