Rishi Sunak is facing calls to apologise after joking about Labour’s position on trans people when the mum of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey – who was transgender – was in Parliament. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak ridiculed Sir Keir Starmer for U-turning on “defining a woman”.
No 10 said it was “legitimate” to question the Labour leader’s position. But Brianna’s father, who is among those calling for an apology, said the PM’s comment was “degrading”.Her father, Peter Spooner, told Sky News: “As the prime minister for our country to come out with degrading comments like he did, regardless of them being in relation to discussions in Parliament, they are absolutely dehumanising.
“Identities of people should not be used in that manner, and I personally feel shocked by his comments and feel he should apologise for his remarks.”
Brianna’s family are being invited to a meeting about online safety with the prime minister and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan, the BBC has been told.
At PMQs, Mr Sunak listed what he described as a number of Labour U-turns, accusing Sir Keir of changing his position on “defining a woman”.
“Although in fairness, that was only 99% of a U-turn,” he added. Sir Keir hit back, saying: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.
“Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility. Brianna’s mother Esther was not in the public gallery for the exchange but entered shortly afterwards. Later, Mr Sunak ignored a call from Labour MP Liz Twist to “apologise to Brianna Ghey’s mother”.
But at the end of the session the prime minister said Ms Ghey represented “the very best of humanity” for the “compassion” she showed after her 16-year-old daughter was murdered by two teenagers who had a fascination with violence. He added that the murder “was an unspeakable and shocking tragedy”.
A spokeswoman for Sir Keir said: “We don’t think the country wants or deserves a prime minister who is happy to use minorities as a punch bag.
“The comments were deeply offensive to trans people. He should reflect on his response there and apologise.” Chancellor questioned on whether PM made trans joke at PMQs
Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch said it was “shameful” of Sir Keir “to link his own inability to be clear on the matter of sex and gender” to Ms Ghey’s grief. Every murder is a tragedy. None should be trivialised by political point-scoring,” the Tory MP wrote on X.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt denied Mr Sunak had made a minority group “a punchline for a joke” and declined to say whether he thought the PM should apologise.
“The prime minister could not have been clearer about the enormous respect that he has for Brianna Ghey’s mother,” he told the BBC. What he was saying is that on the really important issues of the day Labour and Sir Keir Starmer simply cannot make up [their] mind.”
However, some Conservative MPs criticised the prime minister’s comments. Dehenna Davison said it was “disappointing to hear jokes being made at the trans community’s expense”.
“As politicians, it’s our job to take the heat out of such debates and focus on finding sensible ways forward, whilst ensuring those involved are treated with respect,” the MP for Bishop Auckland wrote on X.
Jamie Wallis, who was the first MP to say publicly that he had gender dysphoria and is in the process of transitioning, said: “I know from from my own interactions with the prime minister that today’s display of insensitivity must have been inadvertent.
“Today has been a tough day for me, but all I can think about right now is Brianna’s mother. Let us all think of her as we choose how to progress with this debate.” Another Tory MP, Elliot Colburn, said what happened during PMQs was “disappointing”.
“I’d rather every politician stopped using trans issues as an electoral issue,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme. [Trans people] have never asked to be part of this very toxic conversation, so we need to stop it.
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It comes as eight million people on means-tested benefits will receive their final cost-of-living installment. Read more