UK Prime Minister Rushi Sunak has declined to apologise to Peter Spooner, the father of trans teenager Brianna Ghey, who was murdered in Cheshire last year, after the politician’s transgender jibe in the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 7. The PM’s comment was made just moments after Sunak was told that Ghey’s mother, Esther, was watching him speak.
On the floor of the House of Commons, Sunak listed what he saw as the promises that had been broken by the Labour Party: “I think I counted almost 30 in the last year: pensions, planning, peerages, public sector pay, tuition fees, childcare, second referendums, defining a woman – although in fairness that was only 99% of a U-turn.”
Sunak’s final remark referring to “99% of a U-turn” is seemingly in reference to a Labour Party policy reversal on self-identification and a jab at MP Keir Starmer, who previously stated that “99%” of women don’t have penises.
Following the comments, the Prime Minister has been bombarded with criticism from MPs like Labour leader Keir Starmer and from Ghey’s father, who called them “absolutely dehumanising”.
“For the Prime Minister of 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,” Spooner told Sky News on Wednesday.
“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.”
Cross-party MPs also requested that Sunak make an apology to Ghey’s mother for his insensitivity on the House floor. Those calling for an apology included Starmer himself, who said: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in the chamber. Shame. Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility.”
Despite calls for an open apology in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister refused, a stance which he has since doubled down on, telling Sky News: “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.”
Sunak continued, “I think that is an absolutely legitimate thing to point out, and it demonstrates that he doesn’t have a plan for the country.
“Like everyone, I was completely shocked by Brianna’s case. To have your child taken from you in such awful circumstances is almost impossible to come to terms with, and for Brianna’s mum to talk with such empathy and compassion about that, I thought, was inspiring, and it showed the very best of humanity,” he added.
“I’ve nothing but the most heartfelt sympathy for her entire family and friends. But to use that tragedy to detract from the very separate and clear point I was making about Keir Starmer’s proven track record of multiple U-turns on major policies because he doesn’t have a plan, I think is both sad and wrong, and demonstrates the worst of politics,” the Prime Minister concluded.
BREAKING: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declines to apologise for transgender jibe despite calls from Brianna Ghey’s family
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/QZiy0GhnP9
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 8, 2024
Sunak remains under fire for his comments and his refusal to make a formal apology to Brianna Ghey’s family. Former minister Jackie Doyle-Price is among those openly criticising him, saying that his comment “trivialises something that’s very important” and was “frankly very ill-judged. “
Another former minister, Dehenna Davison, similarly called out Sunak in a tweet, writing that it was “disappointing to hear jokes being made at the trans community’s expense”.
“Our words in the house resonate right across our society, and we need to remember that. Given some of the terrible incidences of transphobia we have seen lately, this need for respect feels more crucial than ever,” Davison concluded.
Wasn’t in Parliament today thanks to a migraine attack so have just caught up on PMQs.
The debate around trans issues often gets inflamed at the fringes. As politicians, it’s our job to take the heat out of such debates and focus on finding sensible ways forward, whilst ensuring…
— Dehenna Davison MP (@DehennaDavison) February 7, 2024
Jamie Wallis, the UK’s first openly trans-MP, similarly chimed in on Sunak’s comments, saying in a statement: “I know that 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.”
Following PMQs, Esther Ghey met with Starmer, who later tweeted: “I am utterly in awe of her strength and bravery in the face of unimaginable grief, as she campaigns to make sure no parent has to go through what she did.”
Today I met Esther Ghey, whose daughter Brianna was murdered last year.
I am utterly in awe of her strength and bravery in the face of such unimaginable grief, as she campaigns to make sure no parent has to go through what she did.
Labour will work with campaigners and parents… pic.twitter.com/hR1lIQu7oC
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) February 7, 2024
Transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was murdered by Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, both 16, in a Cheshire park in February 2023. Last Friday, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison, respectively.
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