Editor of Mail on Sunday refuses to attend meeting with Commons Speaker over Angela Rayner smears

The editor of The Mail on Sunday has refused to attend a meeting with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle over the paper’s controversial report about Angela Rayner.

Sir Lindsay told MPs on Monday he had arranged a meeting with David Dillon following an outcry over claims the Labour deputy leader crossed and uncrossed her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions to distract Boris Johnson.

In his response to the Speaker, published in the Daily Mail, Mr Dillon said he would not be attending as journalists should “not take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be”.

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Lorraine Kelly interviews Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner. Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

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In his letter, he wrote: “The Mail on Sunday deplores sexism and misogyny in all its forms. However, journalists must be free to report what they are told by MPs about conversations which take place in the House of Commons, however unpalatable some may find them.”

He said while The Mail on Sunday had “the greatest possible respect both for your office and for Parliament [which] along with a free press they are the foundation stones of British democracy”, the invitation would be declined.

Earlier, in a statement, Sir Lindsay said he wanted to use the meeting to ask “we are all a little kinder”, issuing a plea to reporters to consider the feelings of MPs and their families when covering stories in Parliament.

He made the point he had only recently rejected calls to remove the parliamentary pass from another journalist after some MPs called for The Mail on Sunday’s political editor Glen Owen – who wrote the report about Ms Rayner – to have his pass removed.

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“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’,” he said.

“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.

“That is what I wanted to talk about at tomorrow’s meeting.”

The Daily Mail on Wednesday published comments made by Ms Rayner in a light-hearted political podcast in January in which she discussed comparisons between her attire and behaviour in the Commons and a scene in the movie Basic Instinct featuring Sharon Stone.

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On comedian Matt Forde’s The Political Party, Ms Rayner said she was “mortified” by an internet meme comparing her actions to the scene in which Stone’s character crosses and uncrosses her legs in front of detectives while not wearing underwear.

She said: “There is a tint of misogyny in it…. every time I do a PMQs somebody has an opinion on what I wear.

“Did you see the meme on Sharon Stone like I was doing it at the last PMQs? I was mortified.”

After the comments were reported, Ms Rayner said on Wednesday: “I said to [Forde] in January that the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is now.”

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She added: “The Mail implies today that I somehow enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs. I don’t. They are mortifying.