Angela Rayner was the one to face Boris Johnson at the Despatch Box at PMQs, and there was a gasp from each side of the House when she did.

Here was a new – and some would say vastly improved – deputy Labour leader on show in Sir Keir Starmer’s absence.

Angela’s iconic bovver boots have been gone. These were usually worn in conjunction with an all-enveloping, frumpy ensemble.

Angela Rayner earlier this month, pictured as she filled in for Keir Starmer, wearing a pale gold dress

Angela Rayner was pictured earlier in the month as she filled out for KeirStarmer 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.

One even suggested that the couple were flirting.

She was not embarrassed. It was nothing. It was clear she smiled, as if enjoying 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.

At the time, I was sceptical. It wasn’t political debate, but a woman’s instinct that I was able to discern told me otherwise.

Mrs Rayner on a visit to Bristol in 2020, sporting a pair of combat boots and animal-print trousers

On a 2020 visit to Bristol, Mrs Rayner wore combat boots and trousers with animal prints.

It appears that my suspicions may be correct. 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.

Even though rumours about the couple’s ‘deepening friendship have been swirling for weeks at Westminster, there are reports that they may have an affair.

Perhaps it really was an innocent sleepover after a late night discussing policy – or her leadership ambitions.

Perhaps his boiler had failed and he couldn’t bear the idea of taking a cold shower and freezing nights 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.

It is a transformation that I observe in my body and soul.

Every woman is aware that when a married friend swaps flats with stilettoes and suddenly loses weight and gets a new haircut, ditches boring suits for a body-conscious style, and puts tights on top of stockings she knows there is something going on.

Mrs Rayner at PMQs earlier this month, filling in for Sir Keir, when she took on Boris Johnson over the cost of living crisis

Mrs Rayner at PMQs earlier this month, filling in for Sir Keir, when she took on Boris Johnson over the cost of living crisis

Angela was first seen in black PVC macs in glossy magazine shoot last September.

After placing a wreath on Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, she returned to the news pages a few months later.

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.

Six years after her arrival at Westminster in 2005, this was yet another indication of the reinvention and rebirth of Ashton-under-Lyne.

Last week after the pair were photographed leaving Mrs Rayner's taxpayer-funded flat on Wednesday morning

After being photographed by Mrs Rayner on Wednesday morning, the couple left her taxpayer-funded apartment last week

This mother-of-three has been a model of an enlightened woman since her first child.

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.

This may seem sexist and frivolous. However, when Cupid’s Arrow strikes men, it is business as usual.

We women can feel the breeze in our sails when we wear our designer frocks with our heart on our sleeves.

Angela Rayner long maintained that Angela Rayner’s private life was 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.

The reports were not confirmed by any of the parties involved over the weekend.

It is not clear what Mark or Julia might think, or when this intimate friendship was formed.

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?

Ange, however, isn’t so fashionable after all.