Rishi Sunak sparked outrage by joking about the “definition of a woman” in the House of Commons as the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey visited Parliament.
The Prime Minister clashed with Keir Starmer over the ongoing trans debate in family housing as Esther Ghey was due to appear in the public gallery and just four days after the killers of her 16-year-old daughter were jailed in perpetuity.
Mr Sunak accused the opposition leader of being unable to “define a woman” and that it was one of many issues he had flip-flopped on.
But his insult sparked howls of protest from MPs, who accused him of a “cruel” joke, “shameful” behavior and using minorities as a punchline.
After the heated clashes, Labor demanded Mr Sunak apologize, but Downing St defended his conduct, calling it “legitimate”.
The row deepened further when Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch accused Labor of weaponizing the issue for its own political ends.
The incident will certainly be used by Mr Sunak's critics as further evidence that he is “iron-eared” – an allegation rejected by his allies.
The clash came as Mr Sunak accused the Labor leader of breaking the promises he was elected on, adding that Mr Starmer had flip-flopped on “the definition of a woman, even though in In all honesty, it was only a half-turn from 99 percent. »
The tone-deaf remarks referred to Mr Starmer's previous comments that “99.9 per cent of women don't have penises”.
An angry Mr Starmer immediately reprimanded the Tory leader. He said: “Of all weeks to say that, when Brianna's mother is in this chamber. Shame.”
He accused the Prime Minister of “presenting himself as a man of integrity when he has absolutely no responsibility”, while cries of “shame” rang out from the backbenchers.
He added: “I think the role of the Prime Minister is to ensure that every citizen of this country feels safe and respected, and it is a shame that the Prime Minister does not share that.”
It later emerged that Brianna's mother was not present in the House of Commons when Mr Starmer and Mr Sunak crossed swords. even though both men felt like she was.
But she arrived shortly after.
The mistake is the latest in a series of political missteps by the Prime Minister. He was criticized for betting Piers Morgan £1,000 on deportation flights to Rwanda taking off, and for an embarrassing moment when he laughed as a mother begged him to reduce NHS waiting lists for his daughter.
Mr Sunak did not apologize for his insult, although at the end of the PMQs he turned to Ms Ghey to praise her “compassion and empathy”, reiterating that he believed she “demonstrated the best of humanity facing the worst of the situation. humanity”.
Conservative MP Jamie Wallis, the UK's first trans MP, said Mr Sunak had been insensitive: “I know from my own interactions with the Prime Minister that today's display of insensitivity Today must have been unintentional. Today was a tough day for me, but all I can think about right now is Brianna's mom. Let us all think of her as we choose how to move this debate forward.
A former Conservative minister said he was dismayed.
Conservative backbencher Dehenna Davidson said it was “disappointing to hear jokes made at the expense of the trans community. Our words…resonate throughout our society, and we must all remember them. » Labor Party president Anneliese Dodds said it was not the first time the Prime Minister had “used LGBT+ people as an argument for a cruel joke”. described his latest jibe as a “shameful new low”.
Labour's Jess Phillips called the Prime Minister an “absolute disgrace”.
Speaking to social media site X, she said: “Rishi Sunak is an absolute disgrace. A deplorable man with no heart, no common sense, no ideas. The sooner we are cleared, the better.
She added: “How dare he be so rude to the family of a murdered child. He is the lowest of the lowest.
Labor's Ben Bradshaw, one of the first openly gay MPs elected to Parliament, called Mr Sunak a “disgusting man” and accused him of “uttering transphobic slurs”.
Number 10 defended Mr Sunak's comments as “legitimate” and did not rule out him using them again.
The Prime Minister's press secretary said it was “legitimate” for Mr Sunak to “highlight the number of U-turns made by the Opposition Leader”, and said he did not accept that the Prime Minister used trans people as a punchline. .
Sir Keir, who met Brianna's mother at her request, promised his party would 'work with campaigners and parents like Esther to ensure our children and young people get the mental health support they need' .
But Ms Badenoch accused him of “scoring political points” and linking “his own inability to be directly clear on the issue of sex and gender” to Brianna's mother's grief.
Ms Badenoch said: “Every murder is a tragedy. None should be trivialized by political points. As a mother, I can imagine the trauma Esther Ghey endured.
“It was shameful of Starmer to directly link his own inability to be clear about sex and gender to his grief.
“As Minister for Women and Equalities, I have done everything I can to ensure that the debate on LGBT issues is toned down whilst being clear about our beliefs and principles.
“Keir Starmer’s behavior today shows that Labor is happy to weaponize this issue when it suits them.”
In his speech to last year's Conservative conference, Mr Sunak told Conservative delegates in Manchester: “We should not be intimidated into believing that people can be of any gender. They cannot – a man is a man and a woman is a man. a woman.”
LGBT+ charity Stonewall branded Mr Sunak’s comments “cheap, insensitive and crude”.