By David Osland
In an age when politicians are often depicted as ‘all the same’, it’s instantly plain that Angela Rayner did not trundle off the same assembly line as so many others. And I’m not just saying that because of her notable penchant for Goth boots.
Whatever you think of her leftwing credentials – and I haven’t always been impressed, and nor have most of the Unison activists I know – her rise to the deputy leadership of the Labour Party is the culmination of a backstory many of her colleagues would kill for.
Her capsule biography is rightly seen by Labour activists as an inspirational example of the way our movement uniquely offers a voice and a vehicle for working class people.
Rayner grew up on a Manchester council estate, got pregnant at 16, and left school with no qualifications to become a carer, the epitome of what is conventionally regarded as a ‘dead end job’.
Not for her the standard route to Westminster via a few years of student hackery followed by a stint as a special advisor and a parachute landing in a safe seat.
Instead, she put in the hard yards of representing low paid colleagues as a Unison rep before reaching Parliament as recently as 2015. She won her current position just five years later, with the official backing of Momentum.
In a country that falls well short of the meritocracy it likes to think it is, such rapid ascent stands out dramatically. I cannot think of any other current MP with anything like a comparable CV.
Yet the twisted narrative of the right flips all those achievements round, painting her as the incarnation of every last noxious middle class stereotype about working class women.
Teenage mum? Obviously promiscuous. No university education? Northern accent? Obviously thick.
Now the Mail on Sunday has taken rancid snobbish dismissal of the plebs to a whole new level.
Unnamed Tories have “mischievously accused” Rayner of putting Boris Johnson ‘off his stride’ in the chamber by crossing and uncrossing her legs at prime minister’s questions, we are told.
The “comprehensive school-educated Labour MP” – who is a “socialist grandmother” at just 41, nudge nudge, wink wink – couldn’t possibly take on an Old Etonian who honed his debating skills at the Oxford Union fair and square.
So instead she has to stoop to the level of actress Sharon Stone in the 1992 thriller film Basic Instinct, who deploys such devious tactics to distract the cops during a police interrogation.
As all movie buffs know, this is one of the most notorious scenes filmed in Hollywood in recent decades. There is much debate as to whether Ms Stone was wearing knickers in the shot and – to put it delicately – just how much of her anatomy the camera captures.
There you have it. The intrinsic qualities that got Rayner where she is today count as nothing beside showing off a nice pair of pins. Or perhaps flashing even more flesh than that.
Of course the Mail on Sunday would not concoct such trite garbage about any Tory woman MP. It is even entirely oblivious of the obvious implication that Johnson has not transcended the intellectual level of a priapic public schoolboy. Which may even be true.
Look, you either like Angela Rayner’s style or you don’t. Late night conference fringe meeting rants denouncing Tories as “scum” will inevitably raise Conservative Party hackles.
But even in that clumsily expressed anger, Rayner speaks for many who feel the same way. What the Mail on Sunday finds frightening isn’t her Basic Instinct; it’s her Basic Class Instinct.
David Osland is a member of Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP and a long-time left wing journalist and author. Follow him on Twitter at @David__Osland
Image: Angela Rayner MP. Source: https://members-api.parliament.uk/api/Members/4356/Portrait?cropType=ThreeFour. Author: David Woolfall, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
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