OPINION: Rayner is a target of sexism and misogyny but also rabid classism

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner - Credit: PA

Pregnant at 16 with no qualifications and a future of little hope after a childhood of deprivation is as far from the life experience of government front benches as life on Mars.

Angela Rayner scares the opposition because she is too real.

A real person who knows the feeling of real hardship well, understands what it feels like to be cold, hungry, scared, and hopeless.

A real person who knows what having no money feels like.

Every day, she reminds those with no clue about the price of a pint of milk, those who have never set foot in an Aldi and probably never even look at their energy bills of the reality of life for too many living real lives outside the Westminster bubble.

It must be unfathomable to them how someone with no privilege or springboard could have achieved equal status to them – and it winds them up that she doesn’t try to be like them, talk like them or behave like them.

That she is one of them – an elected MP and Shadow party leader on the front benches – really jars.

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Rayner is social mobility personified, and the posh boys don’t like it. They don’t know how to because they’ve never met anyone like her before. She is an alien in their circles.

Rayner is not only the target of sexism and misogyny but also rabid classism.

A teenage mum, trade union officer and care worker and grafter, unbowed by class, unimpressed by money, she is working class in its purest sense, and makes those who aren’t feel uncomfortable.

Whatever your politics, how could you not respect her for how far she has come and what she is doing to help people like her?

But fear fuels attacks. They are scared so they turn on her.

Bringing her down by the absurd Basic Instinct jibes this week spoke more about them than anything else

“She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks,” said the unnamed MP in the leg-crossing nonsense.

It’s because she can that terrifies them. She doesn’t speak their language though, she speak like and for real people.

A young carer for her seriously depressed mother and bullied for wearing steel toe capped shoes for school because they would last, shaped Angela Rayner’s mission to make life better for other people.

Those memories fire her passion to fight to close the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Like those toe caps, it’s steel that runs through her will, rather than privilege and comfort, to have won her a seat on Labour’s front benches as deputy leader.

A grandmother at 37, who started her career as a carer for the elderly, joining a union because of the working conditions she experienced in the job and moving on to work for Unison.

Coming from a background where every comfort was scarce, and life was hard in its toughest sense has made her grateful for what she has now.

Much is spouted about her appearance, especially her hair, which is always immaculate and coiffed. This isn’t rooted in vanity; it’s about growing up with dirty hair and never wanting to feel like that again.

This week, a post on my social media called her Angela ‘The Gob’ Rayner. Oh, how funny he thought it was to demean her. His ‘friends’ were all telling how they couldn’t stand her.

I admire how she’s making people run scared by calling them out and challenging. They have no idea what to make of her or how to deal with her because she is not of their world; she is of ours.

In a world where Westminster is moving further and further from real life, Rayner makes a refreshing change and a breath of realism in a rarefied ivory tower.

She talks like many ordinary people. She doesn’t tip-toe on eggshells or ponders over choosing the correct words. She hasn’t tried to muffle her Stockport accent.

She is who she is and is proud of where she has come from and what she has achieved, rightly so.

We need more Angelas in politics. People who call out unfairness, who relate to voters, are in touch, who have lived, breathed, smelt, tasted, and suffered what the cost-of-living crisis will bring

There’s always been a whiff of sleaze in the House, but Basic Instinct comparisons in the same week it emerged that 56 MPs – including allegedly three Cabinet ministers and two Shadow Cabinet ministers – have been reported to the Parliamentary watchdog set up to investigate sexual misconduct, is horrendous.

The revelation from a Tory female MP that she had seen a male colleague watch porn in the House of Commons illustrates wider culture that women are still up against in toxic Westminster.

Within this context, we might even understand why, at the September 2021 Labour Party conference she described the Tory government as “homophobic, racist, misogynistic” and a “bunch of scum.”

Parliament, its MPs, and system are well past its sell by date, until there are more Angelas.