Sunak again refuses to apologise to Brianna Ghey’s family for transgender jibe

The PM made a crass joke about trans women while the murdered teen’s mother was visiting parliament

Archie Mitchell
Friday 09 February 2024 12:47 GMT
Rishi Sunak refuses to apologise over PMQ trans jibe for third day in a row

Rishi Sunak has yet again refused to apologise to the family of Brianna Ghey after making a trans joke while the murdered transgender teenager’s mother was visiting parliament.

The prime minister said it is “wrong” to suggest he joked about trans people when he made a “how to define a woman” jibe at Sir Keir Starmer this week.

And he said it is “sad” to drag Brianna’s family into a debate which he said was intended to be about the Labour leader’s u-turns.

But, in an interview with BBC Radio Somerset, the PM was once again confronted with calls from Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, to apologise.

Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise for the jibe, made while Esther Ghey, Brianna’s mother, visited Parliament (PA)

Mr Spooner has said he was disgusted with Mr Sunak and branded his comments “degrading” and “absolutely dehumanising”.

In a tense exchange, presenter Charlie Taylor said: “Will you apologise now to Brianna’s father, who has said it was degrading and dehumanising? How much more do you need before you can apologise?”

Mr Sunak said: “I’ve got nothing but heartfelt sympathy for all of Brianna’s family and friends… but as we saw yesterday it is yet another u-turn from Keir Starmer, that was the point I was making.”

The PM was then challenged over whether he would continue making jokes about trans issues in parliament.

But he said: “That is not what I was doing. I was pointing out a very clear track record of u-turns from Keir Starmer on many important matters of policy.”

The row erupted on Wednesday when Mr Sunak accused Sir Keir in the Commons of being incapable of “defining a woman” and said it was one of many issues on which he had changed his mind.

An angry Labour leader immediately admonished the Tory leader. He said: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.”

The PM has been condemned for the jibe across the political spectrum, with Tory former minister Dehenna Davison said it was “disappointing to hear jokes being made at the trans community’s expense”. And minister Penny Mordaunt urged the PM to “reflect” on his remarks.

Labour’s Jess Phillips called the prime minister “an absolute disgrace”.

Even former prime minister Gordon Brown weighed in, saying he had acted when he once referred to a voter as a bigot, adding: “I made mistakes… but I apologised and I think that’s a lesson that all prime ministers should follow”

Sir Keir on Thursday night said Mr Sunak should “do the right thing” and apologise as “swiftly as possible”.

The Labour leader said: “This is nothing to do with me. This is Brianna’s father. They’ve had their child murdered and he has put his words out about what the prime minister said and it’s not good enough for the prime minister’s team to go out today and effectively say to Brianna’s father ‘you didn’t understand what Rishi was saying’.

“He did understand. He’s given his reaction. The right thing to do is to apologise as swiftly as possible – not just reflect but apologise. This is a grieving father.”

But the PM has steadfastly refused to backtrack on the remarks, and on Friday accused critics of dragging Brianna’s family in the face of a tragedy into politics. “I don’t think that’s right, I think it’s sad and it’s wrong,” he added.

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