Press watchdog under fire after rejecting 6,000 complaints over Rayner story

Claims in The Mail On Sunday that the deputy Labour leader used her legs to distract Boris Johnson were widely condemned as misogynistic.

04 May 2022

The press watchdog has been criticised for its decision to reject all complaints about a controversial article claiming Angela Rayner crossed and uncrossed her legs in the Commons in a bid to distract Boris Johnson.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said it received more than 6,000 complaints about The Mail On Sunday’s report, which cited the claims made by anonymous Tory MPs.

Some complainants said the article breached Ipso’s code for discriminating against women, but the watchdog argued the code protects individuals rather than groups.

Ipso also said it “declined to consider” complaints made under the code’s accuracy clause, because it would need Ms Rayner’s involvement to investigate “things which Ms Rayner is claimed to have said and done”.

The April 24 story, headlined “Stone the crows! Tories accuse Rayner of Basic Instinct ploy to distract Boris”, sparked outrage across the political spectrum, with the Prime Minister describing it as the “most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe”.

Campaign group Hacked Off said Ipso has never sanctioned a newspaper for sexist press coverage since it was established in 2014.

The group’s head of communications Sara Badawi said: “Ipso’s decision to reject all complaints about The Mail On Sunday’s patently misogynistic article about Angela Rayner MP indicates they are either powerless or unwilling to address the culture of discrimination and impunity across much of the national press…

“Ipso is an expensive PR project for the national press; an organisation designed to give the perception of accountability whilst sheltering its members from any prospect of genuine regulation.

“Politicians sincere in their opposition to sexism and other forms of discrimination must act to introduce the Leveson reforms in full, and compel national newspapers to join an independent regulator as is already the case for broadcast media.”

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