Angela Rayner has said she was “crestfallen” after a paper printed claims from Conservative MPs that she tries to distract the PM by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

Speaking to ITV, Labour’s deputy leader said she had felt “really down” about how the story would impact her sons.

However, she added she had been “overwhelmed” by the support she received from colleagues.

The story has been widely criticised, with the PM calling it “sexist tripe”.

A source close to the whips office – which is in charge of discipline among Conservative MPs – has said: “Questions are being asked around the palace and if the anonymous source is identified action will be taken.”

The UK press regulator Ipso has said it is exploring possible breaches of its code of practice after receiving 5,500 complaints about the article.

The piece quotes an unnamed Conservative MP saying Ms Rayner “knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks”.

The story said: “Tory MPs have mischievously suggested that Ms Rayner likes to distract the PM when he is in the despatch box by deploying a fully clothed parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.”

Appearing on the Lorraine programme, the Ashton-under-Lyne MP said that when speaking in Parliament she was focused on “doing a good job” and that she felt like she held her own against the prime minister.

Media caption,

Watch: James Heappey slams “idiot colleague” for Rayner claims

‘Not cool’

She accused the article of being “steeped in classism”, suggesting she was “thick” as she had attended a comprehensive school, and insinuated she was “promiscuous” for having a child at sixteen.

The article described the Labour MP’s background as “a socialist grandmother who left school at 16 while pregnant and with no qualifications before becoming a care worker”.

Many MPs have since also condemned the tone of the newspaper’s reporting.

Ms Rayner also said she felt “fearful of the story coming out thinking that’s what people will think of me” but that she was “heartened” by the response.

She added that she had chosen to wear trousers while appearing on the programme as she feels “like I’m being judged for what I wear”.

Speaking earlier, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey described the Conservative colleague who gave the quote about Ms Rayner as an “idiot” and says “people are being put off” coming into politics because of their gender, adding: “That is not cool.”

Mr Heappey said “Westminster is in a bad place right now” and that “men have to call this out”.

Harriet Harman – Ms Rayner’s predecessor as Labour’s deputy leader – said the quotes were “sexist briefing” and “an age-old way to shut people up… it’s rooted in the idea that women should just shut up and stay home and don’t have a right to be in Parliament”.

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