Mail on Sunday article headlined “Stone the crows! Tories accuse Rayner of Basic Instinct ploy to distract Boris”

A summary of IPSO’s response to complaints made about this article

IPSO received over 6,000 complaints about the above article. We have assessed them individually against the Editors’ Code and each complainant will receive a separate response. Because of the high volume of complaints, we address some key elements of complaints received below. 

Third party complaints and complaints made under Clause 1 (Accuracy)

Complainants made a variety of claims that elements of the article were inaccurate. 

Under our regulations IPSO is able to consider complaints from: 

  • an individual who has been personally and directly affected by an alleged breach of the Editors’ Code 
  • a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest 
  • third parties (those not personally and directly affected) in relation to concerns about accuracy matters. 

IPSO’s regulations do not allow us to take forward complaints about issues other than accuracy from people with no connection to an alleged breach of the Code. 

Before deciding to accept complaints from third-party complaints about accuracy, we need to consider the position of the party most closely involved. In order to decide whether the Editors’ Code was breached, IPSO would need to investigate and make findings about things which Ms Rayner is claimed to have said and done. Such an investigation would not be possible without her involvement, and because of this, we declined to consider complaints made under this Code clause. This does not affect the ability of Ms Rayner to make a complaint on this point. More information on handling third party complaints here. 

Complaints under other clauses 

Complainants also made complaints under other clauses of the Editors’ Code. IPSO can only take forward complaints under Clauses 2–16 of the Code from anyone directly affected by editorial material or a journalist’s behaviour (or, with their permission, a representative). 

Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) 

Complainants said the article intruded into Ms Rayner’s private life and could lead to stalking or harassment. As no complainant was acting as an authorised representative, we were not able to consider these complaints. 

IPSO operates a 24-hour anti-harassment advice line offering tailored advice and assistance to anyone concerned about press approaches, and if appropriate can issue a notice to let editors and journalists know that an individual or group of individuals does not want to speak. More on this here. 

Clause 12 (Discrimination) 

Some complainants said the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) because it was misogynistic and classist. Clause 12 is designed to protect specific individuals mentioned by the press from discrimination based on their race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability. It does not apply to groups or categories of people. Complainants’ concerns that the article discriminated against women in general, or was classist, did not relate to an individual. 

Taste and offence 

Many complainants were concerned that the article was offensive. The Editor’s Code does not address issues of taste or offence. It is designed to deal with any possible conflicts between the right to freedom of expression and the rights of individuals, such as their right to privacy. Newspapers and magazines are free to publish what they think is appropriate so long as the rights of individuals – which are protected under the Code – are not infringed. We recognised that many complainants found the content of the article to be offensive or tasteless. However, this did not in itself mean that the article was in breach of the Code by reporting them. 

Other action taken by IPSO 

Even where IPSO does not take forward a complaint, we closely monitor these issues and use the information we gather to identify areas of potential concern to provide targeted interventions to raise press standards. Our team is closely monitoring developments in this area. 

Originally published 4 May 2022