Mail on Sunday editor David Dillon has refused to meet with Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, regarding last weekend’s controversial article on deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner.
During this morning’s broadcast round, justice secretary Dominic Raab refused to criticise Dillon’s boycott of the proposed Speaker meeting.
However Raab denounced the Mail’s initial article as terrible”, and said Rayner was “a formidable opponent” during his time covering PMQs in his role as deputy prime minister.
In his statement in this morning’s Daily Mail Dillon suggests his decision to not meet with Sir Lindsay is related to his beliefs on freedom of the press, explaining: “Britain rightly prides itself on its free Press. That freedom will not last if journalists have to take instruction from officials of the House of Commons, however august they may be, on what they can report and not report. I am afraid I and Glen Owen must now decline your invitation.”
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Dillon also argued that Hoyle does not seem to have considered paper’s stance, and suggests that Rayner herself may have been the story’s original source, as she may have been joking on the Commons terrace regarding the article’s claims.
Dillon explained: “Following investigations by the Conservative party, three other MPs who were part of the group on the House of Commons terrace, one of them a woman, have come forward to corroborate the account of Angela Rayner’s remarks given to us by the MP who was the source of last Sunday’s story.”
The original story, said: “Tory MPs have mischievously suggested that Ms Rayner likes to distract the PM when he is in the dispatch box by deploying a fully-clothed Parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.”
It went on: “It is also suggested she employs the tactic when sitting next to Sir Keir when he faces Mr Johnson at PMQs”.
The article then quotes an unnamed MP as stating: “She [Rayner] knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.
“She has admitted as much when enjoying drinks with us on the [House of Commons] terrace.”
The Commons Speaker has now pushed back at Dillon’s statement, claiming his request for a meeting was not a threat to press freedoms, writing: “I am a staunch believer and protector of press freedom, which is why when an MP asked me to remove the pass of a sketch writer last week for something he had written, I said ‘no.’
“I firmly believe in the duty of reporters to cover parliament, but I would also make a plea — nothing more — for the feelings of all MPs and their families to be considered, and the impact on their safety, when articles are written. I would just ask that we are all a little kinder,” he went on.