Angela Rayner isn't like normal politicians, warns SARAH VINE

Angela Rayner isn’t like normal politicians… So watch out, Boris, warns SARAH VINE

Angela Rayner doesn’t look like a politician. She looks like one of those cool female comedians you find on Channel 4 panel shows. She’s confident, sexy, a little bit unhinged – hence her outrageously offensive ‘scum’ outburst at a fringe meeting last night.

But that’s the point. She doesn’t sound like a politician. She speaks like a normal human being, the kind of person you might meet at work or down the pub. She is clever and quick but she has no airs and graces, no arrogance, no obvious sense of her own self-importance.

She also (and this really shouldn’t matter, but of course it does) has great hair. Oh, and a Labour rose tattooed on her calf.

She is, in short, a bit of a phenomenon. She is also the closest thing that the Labour Party has had to an electable leader in a very long time.

Except, of course, she isn’t the leader because a) Keir Starmer is and b) the Labour Party is full of such incorrigible old sexists that it’s never yet elected a woman to that post (meanwhile the wicked Tories have had two women leaders).

Angela Rayner doesn’t look like a politician. She looks like one of those cool female comedians you find on Channel 4 panel shows. She’s confident, sexy, a little bit unhinged, writes SARAH VINE

But that doesn’t mean she isn’t a force to be reckoned with, not just for the Labour Party itself, but also for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party.

Because make no mistake: if dear old Keir is a bit of a Joe Biden, a somewhat less than thrilling prospect for the electorate, Rayner is Kamala Harris: the kind of electrifying female politician who is not only genuinely charismatic, but whose principles and personality also happen to fit perfectly into the modern political narrative.

She ticks so many boxes. Disadvantaged upbringing (her mother was bipolar and illiterate, and Rayner has said that her mother used to feed her dog food by mistake because she couldn’t read the labels), resilience (she had a baby at 15 and left school at 16, but never let either stand in her way), real-life experience (she grew up on a tough council estate and worked as a carer), honesty (she is brutally frank about the way her early experiences have shaped her) and a tendency to overshare (essential in this modern social media age).

She is authentic in a way that politicians dream of but which very few can claim to be. She brings her real-life experience to the Dispatch Box every time she gets on her feet.

For the members of the Conservative Party sitting opposite her, many of whom are rather cosseted men who have never experienced anything close to a woman like her, she is a confusing and sometimes baffling prospect.

She is also something else, something far more powerful: she is a genuine outsider with nothing to lose. She has none of the champagne socialism of Corbyn (although she is in many ways more extreme than him in her policies) and none of the smug entitlement of a Miliband or a Blair. She is unique, and you can take her or leave her, she doesn’t much care which.

If I were Starmer, I would watch out – and if I were Boris Johnson (pictured), I’d watch out even more, writes SARAH VINE

There aren’t many survivors like her in the House of Commons. It’s a place that chews people up and spits them out; you have to be incredibly tough – and very possibly a little damaged – to survive and thrive there. Rayner is all those things and more. And she’s in her element.

Most importantly, though, she brings a kind of energy to Starmer’s leadership that he could not possible muster himself. Without her, he is just another rather dour intellectual lacking in spirit or soul; she breathes life into his leadership and opens him up to a different demographic. Once again, as Harris did for Biden.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no more desire to see Rayner in power than I do to see Nicola Sturgeon lead Scotland to independence. But you can admire someone without agreeing with their politics. You can also fear them as an opponent.

If I were Starmer, I would watch out – and if I were Boris Johnson, I’d watch out even more. 

Don’t judge Evangelista 

A few years ago I had the same treatment, CoolSculpting, that Linda Evangelista last week sensationally blamed for leaving her ‘permanently deformed’. I had it to reduce the fat under my chin, and I subsequently went on to have it on my stomach too.

Evangelista, above, says she was not warned of the potential side effects, which can include a very rare condition where, instead of shrinking, as intended, fat cells actually grow bigger.

I have to say I clearly remember being told about this at the time but decided to go ahead anyway, and I was very happy with the results. But Evangelista’s case is a stark reminder that no treatment, however ‘non-invasive’, is truly risk-free.

That this should have happened to a woman whose appearance was once the envy of the world is doubly tragic.

It’s no wonder that she talks about ‘deep depression, profound sadness and the lowest depths of self-loathing’.

Many will, of course, say she has brought this tragedy on herself and that hers is a morality tale for our times. To that I would simply say: Let she who has never looked in the mirror and contemplated such a treatment cast the first stone.

#MeToo, Sophie – and thank you 

Reading Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s heartbreaking account of losing her virginity against her will, and the subsequent feelings of hurt, confusion and self-loathing, brought back memories of my experience in similar circumstances. 

Same age; same shy, naive girl; same shock and shame afterwards. It was almost 40 years ago, but it never really leaves you.

I’d like to think such violations are a thing of the past, and that girls today find themselves in much better positions of control. But the sad truth is they don’t; in fact, online porn has probably made things worse.

Sophie says she debated whether to include her experience in her book. From my very personal point of view, I’m glad she did, not just because it makes me feel less bad but also because it will encourage young women to speak out about these things – and not, as I did, bury them for decades.

● A friend of a friend, a New Yorker, texts: ‘Why is your former Prince and his [expletive deleted] wife making Royal-like appearances in Harlem? $8,000 in clothing alone, and she shows up in NYC’s most disadvantaged neighbourhood to read her book aloud. Bad form doesn’t begin to describe it.’

‘Then they meet Chelsea Clinton to talk about vaccine inequality,’ she continues. ‘Are either of them in a position to discuss any sort of inequality at all? Oh please, please take them back!’

I couldn’t put it better myself.

 ● The murder of Sabina Nessa is a brutal and depressing reminder that our streets are not as safe as they should be for women. I don’t worry about myself so much. But my daughter is 18: every time she walks out the front door, she’s at risk. Of course, such predators have always existed (let’s not forget Suzy Lamplugh or Rachel Nickell). What I hope is different now is that there are a number of women in positions of real power – the Duchess of Cambridge and Carrie Johnson, to name but two – who will make sure this issue is finally taken seriously.

● The front page of the latest edition of the esteemed medical journal The Lancet carries a quotation from an article inside on the subject of menstruation. ‘Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected,’ it says. Bodies with vaginas? I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure they used to be known as women.

Of course the Duchess of Cambridge looks great in her tennis gear and has an ‘incredible forehand’. It’s so very Middleton. There ought to be an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary: ‘Middleton, adj: someone who manages to be irritatingly perfect while simultaneously being annoyingly nice.’ 

● Fluoride in the water to fight cavities is all very well, but the real problem is that NHS dentists are still, if you’ll pardon the pun, as rare as hen’s teeth. When will the Government acknowledge that dentists are just as important as GPs in maintaining the nation’s health – and not, as they were classified during the pandemic, merely on a par with nail salons and hairdressers? 

● Sarah Healey, the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, wants to make working from home the norm in the Civil Service. She says it has allowed her to spend more time with her Peloton and teenage children – while supervising her house renovation. Good for her. But not everyone can afford a £1,500 exercise bike and home improvements. Some people have to work for a living. 

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