They could, of course, have been holed up in Angela Rayner’s south London flat discussing the finer details of some new hard-Left policy, or fresh campaign tactics to bring down Boris.
Certainly, there was nothing suspiciously touchy-feely when Labour’s deputy leader emerged from her £30,000-a-year taxpayer-funded property with married shadow minister Sam Tarry in tow one morning last week.
A case of ‘nothing to see here’, as Mrs Rayner, 41, strode ahead in her trademark vegan leopard print boots, swathed against the cold in fake fur and clutching a face mask as they set off for another day of political cut and thrust at Westminster.
Business as usual, unless – perhaps – you factored in Ilford South MP Mr Tarry’s untied shoelaces, the fumbling with the buttons of his pink shirt, and what appeared to be a toothbrush poking out from his coat pocket.
Captured on camera together for the first time together in public away from Westminster or the campaign trail, the ‘baseless’ rumours that have dogged the pair’s deepening friendship for months are today looking altogether rather more believable.
So are they just good friends or are these pictures evidence of politics’ secret new power couple?
Angela Rayner and fellow Labour MP Sam Tarry were spotted leaving her London home together
Ms Rayner, 41, is believed to have become close to the 39-year-old Ilford South MP after he ran her campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader
The pair have been quiet about their relationship, they may have to open up about it in future if Ms Rayner decides to run for the Labour leadership
Mrs Rayner, now the most powerful woman in the Labour Party, was first reported to have grown close to Corbynite Mr Tarry, 39, her former campaign manager when she was running for the party’s deputy leadership in 2020, three months after splitting from her husband of ten years, trade union official Mark Rayner.
Shadow transport minister Mr Tarry, who was married in 2016 to Brighton-based paediatrician Julia Fozard, with whom he has two children, is now believed to have split from his wife, according to The Sun on Sunday.
Both Mrs Rayner, who famously once called a rival Tory MP ‘scum’, and Mr Tarry have so far declined to confirm or deny any rumours that they are anything more than close colleagues.
Last night, Mr Tarry’s wife Julia also declined to comment on the status of their marriage.
Mrs Rayner’s husband, Mark, was not at the family home the couple still share with their two sons in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester.
Whatever the nature of this intriguing new Labour pact, it did not prevent Mrs Rayner from demanding the sacking of former health secretary Matt Hancock over his affair with aide Gina Coladangelo, with whom he was caught in a passionate clinch on CCTV at Whitehall in May last year.
Both married with children, Hancock resigned and the pair subsequently left their spouses to become a couple.
Mrs Rayner’s letter to Boris Johnson demanding that he sack Matt Hancock was met with fury by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who drew attention to her own close bond with Mr Tarry, which was already setting tongues wagging at Westminster.
‘The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock,’ he declared at the time.
‘She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.’
One of the most powerful figures in the Labour Party, she holds four titles including deputy leader, shadow first secretary of state, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow secretary of state for the future of work.
Mrs Rayner doesn’t take kindly, however, to her own private life being placed under scrutiny – not least by her own Labour colleagues.
In May last year, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s closest parliamentary aide, Carolyn Harris MP, resigned after facing allegations that she spread ‘baseless’ rumours about Mrs Rayner’s private life.
‘My personal life is my personal life,’ Mrs Rayner said in an interview at the time.
‘I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to be doing that. It’s not good for any of us if we start putting ourselves in that gutter arena. It’s gutter politics.’
Ms Rayner, who was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Ashton-under-Lyne in 2015, married Unison official Mark Rayner (pictured together) in 2010
She separated from her husband Mark in 2020 and Mr Tarry, a father of two, is also understood to have now parted from his wife.
Shadow transport minister Mr Tarry (left with Julia Fozard and right) was married in 2016 to Brighton-based paediatrician Julia Fozard
Shadow transport minister Mr Tarry (left) had two children with his wife (right)
Even so, she couldn’t resist a low blow at the Prime Minister and, citing ‘double standards’, added: ‘Boris Johnson gets celebrated by the fact that nobody knows how many kids he’s got… I’ve not done anything wrong. I’m living my life like everybody else is. It’s not relevant to what I do. But somehow Boris Johnson, it makes him a lad.’
Mrs Rayner’s personal life hasn’t always, however, been such a closed book.
She has spoken openly in the past about her rise to power within the Labour Party with a compelling narrative – one very appealing to Labour voters – that begins with a troubled childhood, growing up on a council estate in Greater Manchester.
She has told interviewers about how she became a carer for her mother, who could not read or write and suffered from bipolar disorder.
She recalled how her mum once came back from the shops with dog food, thinking it was stewing steak, because she couldn’t read the label.
A teenager when her parents divorced, she talked of having suffered years of dysfunctional home life marred by her father’s affairs and her parents’ ‘explosive’ relationship. She described her childhood existence as ‘feral’.
By the age of 13 she was clubbing in Manchester, looking for ‘the wrong sort of affection from the wrong sort of people’, and was pregnant at 16. The birth of her son Ryan, however, proved a turning point.
Determined to provide for her son and become a role model to him rather than conform to the single teenage parent on benefits stereotype, Mrs Rayner trained as a Samaritan, then became a carer.
Through her work, she discovered the trade union movement, becoming a rep, which gave her the introduction to politics.
It was also through the trade union movement that she met her husband Mark, a Unison official. They married in 2010 and have two sons, one of whom is registered blind and has special educational needs.
She has spoken movingly about how their eldest, Charlie, was born prematurely at 23 weeks, weighing less than one pound, and wasn’t expected to survive.
In a 2018 interview, she praised Mark for helping her through the ordeal, when all she wanted to do was ‘curl up in a ball’, saying: ‘I’m normally the one who wears the trousers, but he took over.
He said, ‘We’ll do what we have to do. I’ll give up work if I have to, we’ll do whatever it takes’.’
Elected to parliament in 2015, Mrs Rayner became the first woman to represent the constituency of Ashton-under-Lyne and since then her rise within the party has been – despite a few bumps in the road, such as the ‘scum’ comment that saw her forced to apologise – meteoric. She is often tipped to be a future Labour leader.
The Commons’ youngest granny – she was 37 when Ryan had his first child – her appeal to Labour voters is centred on her no-nonsense, outspoken persona, quick to hold others to account; someone who takes no prisoners.
So it is perhaps no surprise that Mrs Rayner might be a little coy about the man in the Peaky Blinders cap following her out of her London flat the other morning.
Angela Rayner sits with fellow MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions this month
One of the most powerful figures in the Labour Party, she holds four titles including deputy leader, shadow first secretary of state, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and shadow secretary of state for the future of work
The plain-talking Mancunian said it would be ‘an absolute honour’ to enter Downing Street as a former single mum from a council estate
But she told US broadcaster CNBC she planned to do it as deputy prime minister, with Sir Kier in the top job.
Elected to the Commons in 2019, Sam Tarry – described in various news reports as a ‘golden boy of the hard left’ and a bit of a ‘hipster’ – is apparently no stranger to controversy.
Best known as Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign director, in 2016, Mr Tarry hit back at allegations of electoral fraud after The Sunday Times claimed he was really living in Brighton with his wife when he was serving as a councillor in Barking, east London.
To serve on a council, a councillor must sign an official declaration that they live or work in the area.
The newspaper also reported that a trade union official, named Elly Baker, lived at the Barking flat owned by Mr Tarry and his wife. His lawyers said she was his lodger.
‘This allegation is categorically untrue,’ Mr Tarry said in response to the claims.
‘The evidence irrefutably demonstrates I meet all residency requirements set out in electoral law to be a councillor in Barking and Dagenham.
‘My wife, whom I married in June this year, lives in Brighton and works as a junior doctor. Like many people these days we try to strike a balance between our careers and our personal lives.
‘Unfortunately this means we cannot live together as a husband and wife every day as we one day hope to do.
‘When you serve people in the NHS or as a local councillor that’s a choice that sometimes has to be made.
‘Those promoting this story for political reasons tried to use the same false allegations against me before, and I was completely cleared by the police.’
Similar questions about Mr Tarry’s residency were raised in 2014, when he was first elected to the council, when it was claimed he had given inaccurate details on his nomination papers. Police later dropped the investigation.
When Mr Tarry was elected to the House of Commons he had the backing of Corbynite grassroots group Momentum, after the previous Labour MP for Ilford South, Mike Gapes, defected to Change UK.
The following year he became Mrs Rayner’s deputy leader campaign director.
At the time, he tweeted saying how proud he was to be working with her and posed photos of the pair of them together – with beaming smiles and red rosettes – on the campaign trail.
What they have to say about these latest pictures might be rather more interesting.