The press watchdog has rejected all complaints about an article claiming Angela Rayner crossed and uncrossed her legs in the Commons in a bid to distract Boris Johnson.
Anonymous Tory MPs quoted in a Mail on Sunday article claimed the deputy Labour leader tried to knock the prime minister “off his stride” during Prime Minister’s Questions by “crossing and uncrossing her legs” in a scene supposedly reminiscent of the film Basic Instinct.
The article, headlined “Stone the crows! Tories accuse Rayner of Basic Instinct ploy to distract Boris”, sparked outrage across the political spectrum, with many branding it misogynistic.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) received more than 6,000 complaints about the story, which it said fell under the clauses of accuracy, privacy and harassment, and discrimination.
Third party complaints and complaints made under Clause 1 (Accuracy)
The regulator said it could only investigate complaints made by third parties that fell under the clause of accuracy — but that it would not do so in this case without the involvement of Ms Rayner.
“Before deciding to accept complaints from third-party complaints about accuracy, we need to consider the position of the party most closely involved,” the watchdog said.
“In order to decide whether the Editors’ Code was breached, IPSO would need to investigate and make findings about things which Ms Rayner is claimed to have said and done.
“Such an investigation would not be possible without her involvement, and because of this, we declined to consider complaints made under this Code clause.
“This does not affect the ability of Ms Rayner to make a complaint on this point.”
Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment)
People also complained the article intruded into Ms Rayner’s private life and could lead to stalking or harassment.
IPSO said it could not consider the complaints because “no complainant was acting as an authorised representative”.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
Some complainants said the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) because it was misogynistic and classist.
IPSO said Clause 12 was designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people.
“Complainants’ concerns that the article discriminated against women in general, or was classist, did not relate to an individual,” the watchdog said.
Taste and offence
Many complainants were concerned that the article was offensive, however the Editor’s Code does not address issues of taste of offence, IPSO said.
It added: “We recognised that many complainants found the content of the article to be offensive or tasteless.
“However, this did not in itself mean that the article was in breach of the Code by reporting them.”
IPSO said it would continue to closely monitor the issues.