Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced condemnation and cries of “shame” in the House of Commons after making a joke about transgender people while the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey was present.
The incident occurred during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday when Rishi Sunak launched an attack on the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, for changing his policy positions.
Sunak accused Starmer of “defining a woman” and then added with a laugh, “Although in fairness that was only 99% of a U-turn.” The comment drew immediate backlash from Starmer and other MPs, with Starmer responding, “Of all the weeks to say that. When Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.”
Starmer continued, “Parading as a man of integrity when he has got absolutely no responsibility. I think the role of the prime minister is to ensure that every single citizen of this country feels safe and respected, and it’s a shame the prime minister doesn’t share that.” The benches of the Commons also erupted with shouts of “shame” directed at Sunak.
The reference to “defining a woman” in Sunak’s comment was a dig at Starmer’s previous statement made last year. In April, Starmer had said that 99.9% of women “of course haven’t got a penis” when asked about his views on transgender rights during an interview.
After PMQs, Sunak acknowledged the tragedy of what happened to Brianna Ghey, stating that it was “an unspeakable and shocking tragedy.” He also expressed admiration and praise for Brianna Ghey’s mother, Esther.
However, Sunak’s spokesperson later defended the prime minister’s comment, claiming that it was “legitimate to point out the number of U-turns the leader of the opposition has made.”
The Labour Party responded to Sunak’s remark, stating, “We don’t think that the country wants or deserves a prime minister who thinks minorities are a punchbag.” The insensitive joke made by the prime minister was met with immediate backlash from opposition MPs.