Stepping out on Sunday in leopard-print boots, it is a photograph that brings new meaning to the idea that Angela Rayner is "on manoeuvres".
The image of Labour's deputy leader, one of its most recognisable rising stars, emerging from her south London flat with Sam Tarry, a married MP – though he has reportedly split from his wife – with what looks remarkably like a toothbrush sticking out of his coat pocket has set Westminster tongues wagging.
So much so that the power-dressing, fake-fur-loving Labour leadership hopeful is becoming positively Boris-like in her habit of hogging the headlines – and not always for the right reasons.
The 41-year-old mother-of-three might bristle at comparisons with her Dispatch Box nemesis, but the similarities are increasingly plain to see in their colourful private lives, their penchant for speaking without thinking and their star status as politicians with a populist touch.
As one Labour colleague put it: "You could say Angela is a bit like Boris in the way she trades on her big personality. Like him, she is also quite a complex character, with a complicated back story, and a USP that appeals to the party membership."
It is no secret that straight-talking, plain-speaking Rayner has brought some much needed fizz to the Labour frontbench , providing the yin to Sir Keir Starmer's "boring" yang, in the same way Johnson proved a relief after Theresa "Maybot".
Little wonder, then, that in a sparky exchange at Prime Minister's Questions earlier this month, when Rayner stood in for Sir Keir, the Prime Minister appeared to delight in joshing that the former comprehensive schoolgirl was the now the "shadow minister for the future of work", joking: "We all know what job she wants."
Grinning broadly, Rayner fired back: "I've heard on the grapevine there might be a vacancy for Prime Minister soon, so maybe I should show aspiration."
There's certainly no doubt they share the same fierce ambition, and despite coming from very different economic backgrounds, both grew up with a degree of instability.
Born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, in 1980, Rayner attended Avondale School in nearby Cheadle Heath before leaving at the age of 16, after she became pregnant.
She has subsequently given interviews about her "feral" childhood, recalling how her bipolar mother once came back from the shops with dog food, thinking it was stewing steak, because she couldn't read the label.
Johnson's late mother, Charlotte Wahl, also suffered from mental health problems throughout her life, often leaving her brood in the care of a "chain-smoking nanny".
Rayner has spoken of her father's affairs and her parents' "explosive" relationship – again, revealing an upbringing with eerie similarities to Mr Johnson's. Yet where he found educational salvation at Eton and Oxford, Rayner left school without a qualification to her name.
Yet showing the sort of grit for which she is now renowned, the teenage mother of a baby boy studied part-time at Stockport College, learning British Sign Language, and gaining an NVQ Level 2 in social care before getting a job as a council care worker. After joining Unison, she was elected as a trade union representative before swiftly rising through the ranks to become the union's most senior official in the region.
There, she met Mark Rayner, a Unison official, and the couple, who have two sons together, married in 2010.
Four years later, she was selected as the Labour candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne and won the seat at the 2015 general election, increasing the Labour majority and its share of the vote.
But it seems her stratospheric climb up Labour's greasy pole came at the detriment of her marriage, with Rayner ending her 10-year union three months before she launched her bid for the Labour leadership following the 2019 general election. Ironically, Johnson reached a financial settlement with Marina Wheeler, his wife of 25 years, in February 2020, around the time the Rayners' marriage fell apart. It came after the father-of-seven was linked to Carrie Symonds, the Conservative Party's former head of communications, who became his third wife last year.
Much has been made of Ms Rayner's closeness to Tarry, the Momentum-backed MP for Ilford South, who ran her campaign for the deputy leadership to replace Tom Watson.
According to one Labour insider: "There have always been rumours about Angela and Sam. I was under the impression that they had been seeing less of each other, so I was quite surprised to see the photographs at the weekend."
Another added: "I know Angela had a very difficult time last autumn. I think she was dealing with a degree of heartbreak, and then she suffered a bereavement – it all came after the storm over her "Tory scum" comments . She wasn't in a great place."
Following her outburst at a fringe meeting at last September's Labour Party conference in Brighton, the outspoken MP initially stood by her description of the Conservatives as "homophobic, racist, misogynistic […] scum".
Despite Sir Keir distancing himself from her words, his deputy defended her comments as being made in the "street language" of her northern, working-class roots. She said she would say sorry only if Boris Johnson apologised for past comments he made "that are homophobic, that are racist, that are misogynistic" – a reference to the Prime Minister's previous comments including comparing burka-wearing Muslim women to "letterboxes", describing black people as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" and gay men as "tank-topped bum boys".
Adding that her "scum" comments had been made at a "post-watershed" reception, she insisted it was an attempt to get across the "anger and frustration" felt about Johnson and the Cabinet. "Anyone who leaves children hungry during a pandemic and can give billions of pounds to their mates on WhatsApp, I think that was pretty scummy," she said, in typically unfiltered fashion.
With front-bench colleagues including Lisa Nandy and Ed Miliband also condemning the comments, it was left to former shadow chancellor John McDonnell – Jeremy Corbyn's right-hand man – to suggest that the great thing about "Angie" was that "she's human".
While the loyalty shown by her former "comrade" could be construed as evidence of her "Corbynista" tendencies, in fact – and like Mr Johnson, a libertarian wrongly assumed perceived to be a Right-winger – Ms Rayner's political ideology is also not quite as it seems.
"She's not as Left-wing as I thought she was," said one Labour source who has had close dealings with her. "She wouldn't let people slag off Blair because initiatives like Sure Start [which targeted parents and children under the age of four living in the most disadvantaged areas] changed her life.
"She's Left-wing when it comes to workers' rights, because she came from the unions – but she's not anti-police. She believes in law and order. I'd say she's on the Left of the party's soft Left."
By comparison, Tarry – a vicar's son – was pushed forward by Momentum as the candidate for Ilford South in 2019, despite the leader of the local council, Jas Athwal, having been long considered a "shoe-in" for the seat after the incumbent MP resigned from Labour in protest at allegations of antisemitism in the party.
According to someone with knowledge of the campaign: "Sam was Momentum's man, but I'm not sure he's quite as hard Left as he likes to make out. Angela's certainly not a socialist."
Described variously as "loyal to those loyal to her", "fiery", "quite calculating", "occasionally ruthless" , "strong willed" and "a good laugh", Ms Rayner's growing reputation as one of Parliament's "characters" certainly does drawn parallels with Johnson, with whom she shares an unfettered approach to politics.
According to one Labour staffer: "It's not that ridiculous a comparison. The thing about Angela is she's actually good fun. I expected her to be a bit of a diva with staff, but she's not at all. Like Boris, she just says whatever comes into her head. What she doesn't like is being sneered at for who she is, and where she's come from. That's also a bit like the Prime Minister.
"I thought people went too far when they said they were flirting at the Despatch Box, but there's no doubt Angela enjoyed it. She wasn't nervous. She's the kind of woman who says: 'Bring it on.'"
Arguably a useful mantra for someone who, like her Tory adversary, is never likely to stray far from the front pages. But with a larger-than-life personality comes a certain degree of chaos and unpredictability. Whether Labour or the country is ready for another colourful wild card to set the pace remains to be seen.
- After China’s Hong Kong-Power Grab, Boris Makes Clearest Signal Yet over Huawei
- Software developer hacks Animal Crossing New Horizons to make it compatible with 'smart' sex toys that will vibrate every time players cast a fishing line, use their shovels, or chop down trees
- Boris Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings says he 'doesn't regret' 260-mile lockdown trip
- Theresa May savages Boris Johnson for bringing in David Frost 'a political appointee with no proven expertise' as national security adviser after PM axes Mark Sedwill from post SHE gave him
- Angela Merkel prepared to extend Brexit talks to November to negotiate last gasp trade deal with Boris Johnson
- Downing Street 'doesn't know' if Boris Johnson has met his promise to process all coronavirus tests within 24 hours by the end of June - as care home survey shows one in eight residents STILL have not been tested
- Furious care bosses demand Boris Johnson retracts his ‘cowardly’ comments after PM blamed homes for failing to follow Covid-19 rules
- Boris Johnson threatens to walk away from EU trade talks after Merkel warns UK will ‘live with consequences’ of Brexit
- Boris pleads with firms to hold off on job cuts 'until times get better' as Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group axes 500 workers, John Lewis plans to close stores and lose staff and Harrods cuts 750 roles as High Street bloodbath gathers pace
- Boris Johnson urges EU leaders to speed up Brexit talks amid fears they are trying to run down the clock and insists he will walk away without a deal
- Theresa May says UK's new national security adviser has 'no proven expertise'
- Big Brother’s Angela ‘disappointed’ by those who won’t watch now she’s out
- Coolest ways to make your summer party sizzle: From a flaming cube to a heated lampshade and a disco burner with strobe lights
- Big Brother 2020: Channel 7’s huge mistake letting Angela be evicted
- Opinion: Angela Merkel's moment to define the EU's future
- What is Wild Bill on ITV? Rob Lowe stars in new cop drama - here's all you need to know
- Boris Johnson will push for a general election if the EU grants another Brexit delay because it is 'the only way the country can move on' after MPs REJECTED the Prime Minister's three-day timetable
- Boris the bulldozer! PM Johnson vows to tear up planning system red tape and allow homes in disused High Street shops in drive to rebuild Britain and create jobs
- Boris the crown prince: Remarkable photos of Oxford's golden generation reveal PM and his 1980s contemporaries - including Nigella Lawson and David Cameron - partying when it was cool to be posh and privileged, says Toby Young (who had a front row seat)
- UK's ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson's Muslim burqa comments sparks Conservative Party probe
Is Angela Rayner a new ‘Boris’ in the making? have 2021 words, post on www.telegraph.co.uk at January 25, 2022. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.