Sunak facing calls to apologise for transgender jibe in Commons

Brianna Ghey’s father, Peter Spooner, said the Prime Minister should show remorse for the ‘degrading’ remark.

PA Reporters
Thursday 08 February 2024 00:19 GMT
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak is facing calls to apologise for making a “dehumanising” transgender joke in the House of Commons while the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey visited Parliament.

Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, said the Prime Minister should say sorry for the “degrading” remark made during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Sunak had accused Sir Keir Starmer of having difficulty in “defining a woman” during an attack on Labour party U-turns.

The comments prompted an immediate backlash from across the political spectrum, including from within the PM’s party ranks.

But Downing Street has doubled down on the remarks and insisted they were not transphobic, with Government ministers defending the Prime Minister’s language.

Esther Ghey, Brianna’s mother, had been in Westminster with her local MP in Warrington, Charlotte Nichols, as she campaigns for mindfulness lessons to be taught in schools following the killing of her daughter.

Ms Ghey was invited to meet the Prime Minister and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan on Wednesday to talk about online safety, which she says needs to be improved to better protect children.

It is not yet confirmed whether or when the meeting will take place.

The PM was declining to apologise for his remarks on Wednesday, with Number 10 insisting they were part of “totally legitimate” criticism of Labour.

He faced criticism both from Labour, which accused him of using “minorities as a punchbag,” and some from within his party ranks over the jibe.

Former business minister Jackie Doyle-Price told Times Radio it was “careless” and “very ill-judged” for him to use the joke “in that context”, while ex-minister Dehenna Davison said it was “disappointing”.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch in turn accused Labour of trying to “weaponise” the issue while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insisted the remarks were not directly connected to the “appalling” case.

Brianna was stabbed to death by teenagers Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe in a Cheshire park last February.

During their sentencing earlier this month, the judge said the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both sadism on the part of Jenkinson and transphobic hate on the part of Ratcliffe.

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