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‘The same thing happened to me’ Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner speaks out over ‘misogynistic’ Angela Rayner article

Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner has said she is “totally exasperated” with recent suggestions made about Angela Rayner crossing her legs after similar claims were made about her in 2015. Sophie Howe shared the time she was subjected to a “Sharon Stone moment” comment and explained that she was accused of crossing her legs in a provocative way during a televised BBC interview.

Speaking to Radio Wales Breakfast on Monday morning, Ms Howe said that similar claims made over the weekend about Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, have “brought back all the same feelings of anger and just utter frustration that I felt when the same thing happened to me.” She added: “There’s also an increased frustration that, as it happened to me back in 2015, we’re now seven years on and it is still happening.”

The Mail on Sunday reported that some unnamed Conservative MPs have claimed Ms Rayner purposely tries to ‘distract’ Boris Johnson by crossing and uncrossing her legs while sat opposite him in the House of Commons. Ms Rayner described this as a “perverted smear” and Boris Johnson condemned the claims in a tweet yesterday by saying: “As much as I disagree with Angela Rayner on almost every political issue, I respect her as a parliamentarian and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today.”

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Responding to the remarks, Ms Howe reflected on what it was like when she went through a similar experience. She said: “You think, where has this come from? This is crazy! I was giving a TV interview and I crossed and uncrossed my legs, I hadn’t even thought about it, most women don’t think about that sort of thing and nor should they have to.

“At work I said it was best that we ignore the story, but it became apparent that we couldn’t ignore it. I was being contacted by a whole range of different media outlets, but the main thing for me was being contacted by my 15-year-old son. He texted me and said ‘Mum, what’s going on? All the boys are talking about you and something about Sharon Stone’. And then I had to to explain to him and my other children what this was all about, how stupid this was and how outrageous this was. People who say these things don’t realise the wider implications it can have on women in politics and public life.”

Downing Street have confirmed that, although they will try to identify which Tory MPs made the claims, they will not be holding a formal investigation due to the unlikeliness of it succeeding. Despite this, Ms Howe has demanded that more action should be taken and said: “These people need to be called out. If I was Boris Johnson I would be holding an investigation to find out who made these comments. I would be putting them through a disciplinary process. Until we are taking really robust action to call this out and to deal with these people who make these comments, particularly when they are in public positions themselves, I don’t think we are going to be making any progress.”

Ms Howe also explained that, although the claims about her crossing her legs in ‘Sharon Stone style’ were made in 2015, it is something that has followed her ever since. She said: “If you Google my name, one of the things that will come up is a headline which says, ‘Top cop accused of Sharon Stone moment’.

“That is something you take with you, in a world of social media and your history being all online – these are the sorts of things that women are having to deal with.” Asked whether she thinks about what she wears or how she behaves now in light of what happened, Ms Howe said: “I am not going to change who I am to conform to misogyny and these sorts of outrageous and unacceptable comments. The problem is with the people making these comments, not with me and not with Angela Rayner.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, said on Monday that he will be inviting the editor of the Mail on Sunday, David Dillon, to a meeting to discuss its reporting of the issue. For more politics news, subscribe to our Wales Matters newsletter here.

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