Brianna Ghey’s father Peter Spooner called on Rishi Sunak to apologise for his ‘degrading’ transgender joke during an exchange with Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions
Rishi Sunak has declined to apologise to Brianna Ghey’s father over his transgender joke in the Commons.
The PM insisted his comments were “absolutely legitimate” because he was pointing out Keir Starmer’s U-turns. Asked if he would apologise, he told reporters on Thursday: “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.”
On Wednesday evening Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, demanded Mr Sunak apologise for the “degrading” and “dehumanising” remarks. He told Sky News: ” 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.”
The PM made yesterday the comment about Mr Starmer over his stance on “defining a woman” while the mother of murdered transgender teenager Brianna was in Parliament. The shocking exchange came just moments after the Labour leader welcomed Esther Ghey, who was due to appear from the public gallery at Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Starmer praised her “unwavering bravery” just days after two teenagers were jailed for the murder of 16-year-old Brianna last year.
But as Mr Sunak launched into his attack lines at PMQs, he accused Mr Starmer of failing to stand by his commitments and U-turning on “defining a woman”. Mr Starmer replied: “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.” Other MPs also shouted “shame” while one could be heard saying: “Disgusting”
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt suggested Mr Sunak should reflect on his words. She said: “Whatever the rough and tumble of this place, whatever the pressures and mistakes that are made in the heat of political combat, we owe it to the people who sent us here to strive every day to make them proud of us and this place.
“The Prime Minister is a good and caring man. I am sure that he has reflected on things and I understand he will say something later today, or perhaps even during this session. That is not just about Mr and Mrs Ghey that he should reflect on, but I am sure he is also reflecting about people who are trans, or who have trans loved ones and family, some of whom sit on these green benches. I hope the leader of the Opposition will also reflect on his actions too.”
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the way trans people are spoken about in the Commons, his official spokesman said: “The PM has always been clear that people should be free to live happy lives, everyone should be treated in dignity and respect. That’s the values that he holds, those are British values. And, you know, he would always call on people to behave in that way.”
Pressed over whether Mr Sunak has repeatedly used trans people as the punchline to jokes, his spokesman said: “I wouldn’t accept that he does that. I think, as you can see from the exchange yesterday and in previous exchanges, he’s obviously made political points in relation to the Opposition. The Prime Minister, more generally, has always spoken about the need to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
Shadow Commons leader Lucy Powell had earlier described Rishi Sunak’s remarks as a “new low”, telling MPs: “In the week of the first anniversary of the murder of Brianna Ghey whilst her mother was in the public gallery, the Prime Minister tried to score cheap political points at the expense of trans people, which Brianna’s father condemned as absolutely dehumanising.
“Many of us found it deeply offensive and distasteful, including many Members opposite. The Prime Minister has been given plenty of opportunity to apologise to Esther Ghey and her family, and has refused, and the Equalities Secretary (Kemi Badenoch), whose job it is to stand up for the marginalised, doubled down and dismissed the cries of the family.
“The Leader has a better record than many in her party on this issue and I know she will be appalled too, so will she take this opportunity to apologise on the Prime Minister’s behalf and call out using minorities as a political punchbag?”
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.