The row came as Esther Ghey, who is campaigning for new rules on social media for kids following the murder of 16-year-old Brianna, went to the Commons to meet MPs on Wednesday
The mother of murdered teenage Brianna Ghey has broken her silence after Rishi Sunak made a jibe about transgender people during Prime Minister’s Questions.
In a comment on her Peace & Mind UK Facebook page, Esther Ghey said: “I don’t wish to comment on reports of wording or comments recently made. My focus is on creating a positive change and a lasting legacy for Brianna.
“Through Peace & Mind, we want to improve lives by empowering people, giving them the tools they need to build mental resilience, empathy, and self-compassion through mindfulness. In developing these skills, I hope that we can create a more understanding, peaceful, and stronger society for everyone.”
Ms Ghey was in Parliament to attend a debate on mindfulness yesterday with her MP Charlotte Nichols, when the Prime Minister tried to mock Keir Starmer over his position on trans people. Moments earlier, Mr Starmer had praised her “unwavering bravery” after two teenagers were jailed for the murder of her 16-year-old daughter Brianna last year.
Mr Sunak accused Mr Starmer of failing to stand by his commitments and U-turning on “defining a woman”. “Although, in fairness, that was only 99% of a U-turn,” he joked as he referenced comments the Labour leader previously made when he said 99.9% of women don’t have male genitalia.
As Tory MPs howled with laughter, Mr Starmer said: “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 father Peter Spooner yesterday called on Mr Sunak to apologise for the “degrading” and “dehumanising” comments. He said he was shocked and “disgusted” with Mr Sunak’s jibe, adding: “Identities of people should not be used in that manner, and I personally feel shocked by his comments.”
But Mr Sunak refused to apologise, insisting his comments were “absolutely legitimate” because he was pointing out Keir Starmer’s U-turns. Asked if he would apologise, he told reporters today: “If you look at what I said, I was very clear, talking about Keir Starmer’s proven track record of U-turns on major policies because he doesn’t have a plan.
“A point only proven by today’s reports that the Labour Party and Keir Starmer are apparently planning to reverse on their signature economic green spending policy. That just demonstrates the point I was making. He’s someone who has just consistently changed his mind on a whole range of major things. I think that is an absolutely legitimate thing to point out and it demonstrates that he doesn’t have a plan for the country.”
Earlier a Tory minister struggled to defend the PM’s comments as he failed to say six times whether they were “respectful” or “appropriate”. Asked whether the joke was “appropriate” while Esther was in Parliament, the policing minister Chris Philp claimed on BBC Breakfast: “The PM wasn’t talking about trans issues.
“He certainly wasn’t talking about Brianna in that passage. He was talking about Keir Starmer’s record of U-turns on a whole range of different issues.” Pressed again on whether the remark was “respectful”, Mr Philp again said the PM was highlighting U-turns from the Labour leader.
In total, the Tory minister deflected the question six times and refused to say whether the comments were respectful. He added: “The Prime Minister made no reference at all to any individual trans people. It was Keir Starmer who introduced that. The Prime Minister was making a point about Labour’s very numerous flip-flops.”
Mr Philp also said the PM “would be very happy” to meet Brianna’s family, and that Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan wanted to speak to Ms Ghey about online safety. Ms Ghey has been invited to a meeting, though it has not yet been confirmed whether or when it will take place.
Since the court case finished last week Ms Ghey has received plaudits for her campaign work and is calling for a law to ensure phones are “suitable” for kids. She is urging MPs to adopt a ban on social media apps on smartphones for under 16s and also wants software to alert parents when their children are searching harmful content online.
Scarlett Jenkinson, who was jailed for life last week alongside Eddie Ratcliffe, had viewed extreme violence on the “dark web” before murdering Brianna. Last year Ms Ghey set up the Peace of Mind campaign to help raise cash to train teachers in mindfulness techniques and help kids deal with negative emotions. She has previously said creating the campaign helped her “focus on something positive” and has meant “something good has come out of the tragic situation.”