Angela Rayner has written to Boris Johnson demanding answers over reports that a ‘Sexist of the Year’ award was handed out at a lockdown-busting Christmas party in Number 10.
Labour’s deputy leader has called on the prime minister to confirm whether or not the award was presented at a gathering in Downing Street in December 2020, as originally reported in the Sunday Times.
In a letter, Ms Rayner says if such a presentation did take place, the government must release information stating who gave out the award, who was nominated for it and why, and who was presented with the prize.
“It has already been established that there were a number of events in Downing Street that were illegal under the lockdown rules in place at the time, but this raises further questions about the conduct of senior political figures during the course of these events that deserve an urgent response from you,” the letter states.
It continues: “You have claimed on the record this week that there is “no place” for sexism in politics, and yet there are now serious and credible allegations in the Sunday Times that sexist behaviour has not only taken place in your own office but has been celebrated and rewarded.
“You are ultimately responsible for the culture and activity that takes place within Downing Street under your administration.
“If true, these allegations are not only at odds with your professed opposition to sexism but set a terrible example and must result in further action.
“Please could you confirm what action will now be taken? Given the seriousness of the new revelations in today’s Sunday Times and the serious matters and questions arising, I look forward to your speedy response.”
Rayner demands PM confirms if ‘Sexist of the Year’ award given
Ms Rayner’s letter comes amid accusations of misogyny and sexual misconduct at Westminster.
In recent weeks, a number of damning allegations have plagued the Commons, with 56 MPs reportedly facing claims of sexual misconduct.
At least three Cabinet ministers are thought to be among the parliamentarians that have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme over the allegations.
On Saturday an MP said he will resign after admitting to watching pornography in the House of Commons.
Neil Parish said he watched adult material twice in parliament, claiming the first time was accidental after looking at tractors online but that the second was “a moment of madness”.
Before that, Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon declined an invitation to meet Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to discuss anonymous claims published in the newspaper that Ms Rayner crossed and uncrossed her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions to distract Boris Johnson.
The article has been widely condemned as “sexist” and “misogynistic”, and Ms Rayner herself has described it as “disgusting”.
Calls for culture change in parliament
Sir Lindsay has called for “radical” reform to working practices in parliament following a series of bullying and sexual misconduct claims against MPs.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer called for behavioural and cultural change to tackle sleaze in Westminster.
But, speaking to Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday programme, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng rejected the suggestion that there is a culture of misogyny at Westminster.
He said: “I think the problem we have is that people are working in a really intense environment, there are long hours, and I think generally most people know their limits, they know how to act respectfully.
“But there are some instances where people don’t frankly act according to the highest standards.”
Partygate investigation ongoing
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation into lockdown-breaching parties held across Downing Street and Whitehall is still ongoing.
Last month, the prime minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Mr Johnson’s wife Carrie Johnson were all issued fixed-penalty notices for attending an event to mark the prime minister’s 56th birthday.
The prime minister, who has faced persistent calls to resign over partygate and apologised to MPs in a performance high on contrition, is thought to have been at more of the 12 events under investigation by Scotland Yard.
The Met Police has said it will not issue any further partygate updates before the May local elections.