A file picture of Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in parliament on January 19, 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

London: Britain’s press regulator on Monday said it had received a slew of complaints over a newspaper article likening a leading woman opposition MP to the femme fatale character in “Basic Instinct”.

The Mail on Sunday alleged Angela Rayner deliberately tried to distract Prime Minister Boris Johnson during debates in parliament by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

It quoted an unnamed MP from Johnson’s Conservative party comparing the Labour deputy leader to Sharon Stone’s character in the 1992 film “Basic Instinct”.

In one scene, Stone, crosses and uncrosses her legs to flummox detectives during an interrogation over a murder.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation said it had received 5,500 complaints about the article, which triggered complaints of sexism and misogyny from all parties.

IPSO said it was exploring possible breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice relating to accuracy, harassment and discrimination.

“We are dealing with these under our normal procedures,” it added.

Rayner called it “gutter journalism” while Johnson quickly tweeted that he respected her as a parliamentarian, despite their political differences.

On Monday, Johnson - facing questions about his own future after being fined for attending a lockdown-breaking birthday party - said it was “the most appalling load of sexist, misogynist tripe”.

“I immediately got in touch with Angela and we had a very friendly exchange.

“If we ever find who is responsible for it, I don’t know what we will do, but they will be the terrors of the earth,” he said, quoting “King Lear”, a Shakespeare play about the loss of power.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes said she had contacted the House of Commons speaker to ask if the author of the report should have his parliamentary pass withdrawn.

The Sunday Times reported that three cabinet ministers and two of their opposition counterparts were currently facing sexual misconduct claims.

They were among 56 MPs referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which was set up in the wake of the “MeToo” scandal.

The weekly said about 70 separate complaints had been made, including making sexually inappropriate comments and more serious wrongdoing.