Here was a new – and some would say vastly improved – deputy Labour leader on show in Sir Keir Starmer‘s absence.
Gone were Angela’s trademark bovver boots, usually worn with some frumpy, all-enveloping ensemble: In their place, shiny black stilettos.
Angela Rayner earlier this month, pictured as she filled in for Keir Starmer, wearing a pale gold dress
A slinky, daringly slashed dress in a becoming shade of pale gold complemented her svelte form, sleek red locks and perfectly applied make-up – with a string of fake pearls at her throat as a finishing touch.
It was a boisterous and teasing encounter as she took on Boris over the cost of living crisis – while also conceding her own leadership ambitions.
Some went so far as to suggest the pair were actually flirting!
Was she embarrassed? Not a bit of it. She was positively beaming, a woman revelling in the moment.
She knew that she’d spectacularly eclipsed her boss – Sir Keir is a politician given to performances that lack energy – and that she’d done it in style.
But at the time I suspected something more. Every shred of womanly instinct told me it was not the cut and thrust of political debate that had so transformed the former trade union rep with Trotskyite leanings.
Mrs Rayner on a visit to Bristol in 2020, sporting a pair of combat boots and animal-print trousers
And it seems I may have been right. As the Daily Mail reported yesterday, Angela was spotted leaving her £30,000-a-year taxpayer-funded south London flat with married MP Sam Tarry one morning last week.
Now, although rumours have been rife for weeks at Westminster about their ‘deepening friendship’, reports of an affair may be premature.
Perhaps it really was an innocent sleepover after a late night discussing policy – or her leadership ambitions.
Or maybe his boiler was bust and he simply couldn’t face the thought of a freezing night and cold shower in the morning.
But I would respectfully suggest that the circumstantial evidence – and by that I mean what one red-blooded woman instantly recognises in another – suggests otherwise.
I see that physical and sartorial transformation and I know that telltale glow.
Any woman knows that when one of her married friends swaps flats for stilettoes, suddenly loses weight, gets a new hairdo, ditches her boring suits for some body-conscious flair and bins tights for stockings, there’s something afoot.
Mrs Rayner at PMQs earlier this month, filling in for Sir Keir, when she took on Boris Johnson over the cost of living crisis
There was a first intimation when Angela appeared in a black PVC mac in a glossy magazine shoot last September.
A few months later she was back in the headlines after she laid a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.
For many, the towering heels and too short dress worn under a red coat were inappropriate for such a sombre occasion – not to mention the Labour red rose ankle tattoo on display.
But, six years on from her arrival at Westminster, it was another sign of the reinvention of the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne.
Last week after the pair were photographed leaving Mrs Rayner’s taxpayer-funded flat on Wednesday morning
Since then the mother-of-three’s demeanour has been of a woman who has discovered a new lease of life and is devouring it.
At PMQs she sported a Jennifer Aniston poker-straight hairstyle and artfully applied highlighter to cheek and brow; since then we’ve seen her with blow-dried cascading curls a la Beyonce – perhaps with a few hair extensions for added va va voom – and more glittery gold eye-shadow than a contestant in Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Forgive me if this appears sexist or frivolous, but when men are struck by Cupid’s arrow, it tends to be business as normal.
When we women have the wind in our sails, we carry our hearts on the sleeves of our newly purchased designer frocks.
As Angela Rayner has long insisted, her private life is just that, private. She and her husband of ten years, Mark, parted in 2020, while it is being reported that Tarry – her former campaign manager when she ran for the deputy leadership – has split from his wife, Julia, with whom he has two children.
None of those involved have confirmed or denied the reports over the weekend.
Who knows what Mark or Julia think or whether this close friendship started after their partners left them or before.
And none of us should forget that family break-up – and all the sadness that goes with it – is at the heart of the gossip fest now entertaining Westminster.
But don’t you agree that Angela – with bare legs in vegan leopard print boots – and Sam – with his shoe laces untied – looked downright shifty as they skulked down the stairs of the flat?
Not so very stylish after all, Ange.