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No 10 refuses to apologise to Brianna Ghey’s mother after Sunak makes trans jibe during PMQs – UK politics live – best news

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No 10 refuses to apologise for Sunak’s anti-trans joke, and says it was ‘legitimate’ for him to highlight Starmer’s U-turns

No 10 has defended Rishi Sunak’s decision to make a joke about trans people at PMQs. (See 12.06pm.)

Asked about the PM’s comment at the No 10 post-PMQs lobby briefing, a spokesperson said:

If you look back on what the prime minister was saying, there was a long list of U-turns that the leader of the opposition had been making.

I don’t think those U-turns are a joke, it is quite serious changes in public policy. I think it is totally legitimate for the prime minister to point those out.

The spokesperson also declined to apologise.

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Key events

In the Commons the SNP MP Hannah Bardell used a point of order to say that Rishi Sunak should apologise for his anti-trans jibe. She said she was “horrified” to hear Sunak “on his feet during LGBT history month, and on a day when Brianna Ghey’s mother was in parliament, to make a transphobic joke across the chamber”.

She went on:

We come to this place as elected representatives to improve the condition of others, do we not? And at a time when the trans community are facing unprecedented attacks from people in this place, from people in the other place, and from the media, it is incumbent upon as all to reflect on our language, on how we approach these issues and how we talk about the trans and non-binary community.

I think and I hope [the deputy speaker] will guide me in how we can make sure the prime minister apologises.

Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy speaker, said it was not her job to require Rishi Sunak to “say anything different”.

But she said paid tribute to Esther Ghey and she said “when a tragedy has occurred that we ought to show sympathy and understanding, and not always make political points”.

Stonewall says anti-trans jibes like Sunak’s ‘can and do result in harm’ and calls for apology

Stonewall, which campaigns on behalf of LGBTQ+ people, has joined opposition politicians in saying Rishi Sunak should apologise for his anti-trans jibe at PMQs. In a statement, it says dehumanising comments like this from people in power “can and do result in harm”.

Severin Carrell

The Scottish National party still holds a clear lead over Labour in both Westminster and Holyrood elections, according to a new poll by Ipsos which does, however, show those leads being steadily eroded.

The Ipsos poll, for Scotland’s commercial broadcaster STV, puts the SNP seven points ahead in a Westminster election on 39%, versus 32% for Labour, and nine points in the constituency vote for Holyrood, on 39%. It said the SNP still maintains a lead in public trust in health, schools and the cost of living policies.

Humza Yousaf’s advisers argue these findings undermine assumptions now taking root in Scotland that Labour is poised to beat the SNP in the general election, building on its drubbing of the SNP in last October’s Rutherglen byelection.

Other polls put Labour much closer to the SNP in a Westminster vote. Panelbase very recently put Labour three points ahead, and Redfield & Wilton has had Labour two points ahead or neck and neck with the SNP.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, believes those findings put Labour on or very close to 35% in general election voting. Labour sees that as the magic number, a tipping point at which a large number of SNP seats come into play for Labour.

Some pollsters believe Ipsos’s methodology is more accurate than other commercial polls. YouGov, Panelbase, Survation and Redfield & Wilton tend to use internet-based panels of people registered and sometimes incentivised to take part. Ipsos cold calls voters by telephone and arguably has a wider and more representative net of people to draw from.

However, today’s Ipsos data has warning bells for the SNP; it is tracking a continuing increase in Labour support. In May 2023, the SNP had a 12-point lead in a Westminster election, which fell to 10 points in November 2023. In the Holyrood vote, the SNP lead has fallen from 14 points last May, to 12 in November.

The same squeeze appears in trust ratings; the SNP trust ratings on the NHS, schools and the economy have fallen by five or six points since May 2022 and Labour’s have grown by seven in all three areas.

Treasury costings of opposition policies have ‘little, if any, credibility’, says ex Treasury permanent secretary

Labour has also described the Treasury costing document used by CCHQ to argue that Labour’s insulation policy would cost £13bn a year (see 11.53pm) as ludicrous and wrong. A spokesperson said:

This costing is ludicrous and uses bogus assumptions. They have costed someone else’s policy, not Labour’s.

Nick Macpherson, who was permanent secretary at the Treasury from 2005 to 2016, seems to agree. In a post on X, he said:

Over the next 9 months, we will have to tolerate many an “official Treasury” costing of Opposition policy. Since time immemorial, whatever the party in power, these costings have had little if any credibility. Political advisers determine the assumptions. #rubbishinrubbishout

Over the next 9 months, we will have tobtolerate many an “official Treasury” costing of Opposition policy. Since time immemorial, whatever the party in power, these costings have had little if any credibility. Political advisers determine the assumptions. #rubbishinrubbishout

— Nick Macpherson (@nickmacpherson2) February 7, 2024

Labour says UK deserves better than PM ‘happy to use minorities as punch bag’

Keir Starmer is due to meet Esther Ghey, Brianna’s mother, this afternoon, his spokesperson said at Labour’s post-PMQs briefing. Commenting on what Rishi Sunak anti-trans jibe, the spokesperson said:

We don’t think that the country wants or deserves a prime minister happy to use minorities as a punch bag. The comments were really, deeply offensive to trans people, and he should reflect on his response there and apologise.

Ghey has called for under-16s to be banned from accessing social media on mobile phones. The spokesperson said Labour was open-minded about this proposal.

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Opposition MPs are denouncing Rishi Sunak on X over his anti-trans jibe. Here are some examples.

From Anneliese Dodds, the shadow secretary for women and equalities

This isn’t the first time Rishi Sunak has used LGBT+ people as a punchline to a cruel joke.

But making jokes about trans people in front of the mother of Brianna Ghey is a shameful new low.

We must do better than this. The Prime Minister should apologise immediately.

This isn’t the first time Rishi Sunak has used LGBT+ people as a punchline to a cruel joke.

But making jokes about trans people in front of the mother of Brianna Ghey is a shameful new low.

We must do better than this. The Prime Minister should apologise immediately. #PMQs

— Anneliese Dodds (@AnnelieseDodds) February 7, 2024

From Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem deputy leader

Appalling scenes in #PMQs as Sunak taunts trans people (“what is a woman”) in front of Esther Ghey, mother of Brianna Ghey, who is watching in the Commons gallery today.

The PM has brought shame on his office and on the House. MPs are rightly shouting “apologise”.

Appalling scenes in #PMQs as Sunak taunts trans people (“what is a woman”) in front of Esther Ghey, mother of Brianna Ghey, who is watching in the Commons gallery today.

The PM has brought shame on his office and on the House. MPs are rightly shouting “apologise”.

— Daisy Cooper MP 🔶 (@libdemdaisy) February 7, 2024

From the Green MP Caroline Lucas

Even with Brianna Ghey’s mother in the public gallery, the PM can’t resist blowing the culture war dogwhistle. Is there no depth to which he will not sink?

Even with Brianna Ghey’s mother in the public gallery, the PM can’t resist blowing the culture war dogwhistle. Is there no depth to which he will not sink? #PMQs

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) February 7, 2024

From Labour’s Ben Bradshaw

Disgusting man, Rishi Sunak, making transphobic slurs at PMQs with Brianna Ghey’s mother in the gallery & dodging the chance to apologise. Brilliant & genuinely furious response from @Keir_Starmer

Disgusting man, Rishi Sunak, making transphobic slurs at PMQs with Brianna Ghey’s mother in the gallery & dodging the chance to apologise. Brilliant & genuinely furious response from @Keir_Starmer 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/LOm5yTgmfx

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) February 7, 2024

From Labour’s Matt Western

In the same week we’ve been outraged by the comments of 3 Conservative Cllrs on SEND children, we now hear the PM mocking trans people whilst Brianna Ghey’s mother is in the audience.

Just horrifying. Nationally and locally, they’re targeting some of the most vulnerable

In the same week we’ve been outraged by the comments of 3 Conservative Cllrs on SEND children, we now hear the PM mocking trans people whilst Brianna Ghey’s mother is in the audience.

Just horrifying. Nationally and locally, they’re targeting some of the most vulnerable.#PMQs https://t.co/xOTVJXWAZJ

— Matt Western MP 💙 🇬🇧🇨🇦 (@MattWestern_) February 7, 2024

From Labour’s Sarah Champion

Rishi makes trans joke during PMQs while Brianna Ghey‘s mum was in parliament. Even worse, it was clearly scripted. What is wrong with these people

Rishi makes trans joke during PMQs while Brianna Ghey’s mum was in parliament. Even worse, it was clearly scripted. What is wrong with these people 😡 https://t.co/jDoIFaeR3C via @MetroUK

— Sarah Champion (@SarahChampionMP) February 7, 2024

From Labour’s Zarah Sultana

Disgusted to hear Rishi Sunak make a transphobic jibe in the Commons, even as Brianna Ghey’s mother is in the public gallery.

Brianna’s horrific murder – which was confirmed as being motivated by transphobia – should have finally taught politicians not to spread this hate.

Disgusted to hear Rishi Sunak make a transphobic jibe in the Commons, even as Brianna Ghey’s mother is in the public gallery.

Brianna’s horrific murder – which was confirmed as being motivated by transphobia – should have finally taught politicians not to spread this hate.

— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) February 7, 2024

No 10 refuses to apologise for Sunak’s anti-trans joke, and says it was ‘legitimate’ for him to highlight Starmer’s U-turns

No 10 has defended Rishi Sunak’s decision to make a joke about trans people at PMQs. (See 12.06pm.)

Asked about the PM’s comment at the No 10 post-PMQs lobby briefing, a spokesperson said:

If you look back on what the prime minister was saying, there was a long list of U-turns that the leader of the opposition had been making.

I don’t think those U-turns are a joke, it is quite serious changes in public policy. I think it is totally legitimate for the prime minister to point those out.

The spokesperson also declined to apologise.

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PMQ – snap verdict

For Rishi Sunak, that was dreadful. If he is not trembling somewhere in the precincts of the Commons hoping the earth will swallow him up, he should be. According to Sam Coates on Sky News just now, Esther Ghey, Brianna’s mother, may not have arrived in the public gallery in time to hear Sunak’s anti-trans jibe (she may have arrived later, Coates say), but that is no consolation at all.

For all the complaints about PMQs being a ghastly shouting match, it is an environment where character gets tested and exposed – instantly, harshly, without recourse to advice – and today Sunak failed badly. He looked like someone whose empathy reflex is deficient.

It was also an insight into how, while the traditionalist, swaggering “a man is a man, a woman is a woman” stuff that Sunak favours may suit a Tory party conference, it does not fare so well when it collides with reality as experienced by people on the receiving end of anti-trans prejudice.

Above all, today’s exchanges were a reminder that PMQs is a challenge and that you can’t simply rely on what has been scripted in advance. Leaving aside the trans jibe, Sunak had a decent riff prepared about Keir Starmer’s numerous U-turns (see 12.06pm) and if he had had the nous, on hearing that Esther Ghey was in the gallery, to drop the punchline, he would have been OK. But he didn’t, because he hasn’t got the political agility, or the capacity to avoid the insensitive (the same instinct that might have protected him in his Piers Morgan interview).

Starmer was able to rip up his script. Instantly spotting Sunak’s howler, he summed up the PM offence rather well:

I think the role of the prime minister is to ensure that every single citizen in this country feels safe and respected. It’s a shame that the prime minister doesn’t share that.

Backbenchers need to be able to improvise too. To her credit, Labour’s Liz Twist did this when she challenged Sunak to apologise to Ghey. But if she had just left it there, he would have had to answer. Instead she ploughed on his pre-prepared question, which allowed Sunak to ignore the point about an apology.

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Vicky Foxcroft (Lab) asks why the PM downgraded the role of minister for disabled people.

Sunak says the minister for disabled people (Mims Davies) will do a fantastic job, because she cares about the issue.

This is the last question, he he says he wants to address a point to Brianna Ghey’s mother. He says:

I said earlier this week what happened was an unspeakable and shocking tragedy. And, as I said earlier this week, in the face of that for her mother to demonstrate the compassion and empathy that she did last weekend, I thought demonstrated the very best of humanity in the face of seeing the very worst of humanity, and she deserves all our admiration.

He does not apologise.

Sarah Edwards (Lab) asks about a constituent waiting years for an autism diagnosis for her son. Will the PM confirm that students who need an EHCP (education, health and care plan) will get one?

Sunak says the government wants every child to thrive at school. He will look at this case, he says.

Daisy Cooper (Lib Dem) asks about a plan to downgrade Eastbourne’s hospital.

Sunak says a new health facility is being built in Eastbourne. He accuses local Lib Dems there of “scaremongering”.

Liz Twist (Lab) asks Sunak if he will apologise to Brianna Ghey’s mother. She then asks a longish question about the Teesworks investigation.

Sunak answers the Teesworks question, and ignores the point about Brianna Ghey’s mother, leading to MPs shouting “apologise” at him.

Elliot Colburn (Con) says every year 6,500 people contemplate suicide. He says he went through this himself in 2021. Luckily his attempt failed, he received amazing care. He thanks people who helped him and asks Sunak to back him in saying, if other people are going through this experience, they should realise they are not alone.

Sam Tarry (Lab) asks Sunak if he understands that the people he is making “sick bets” on are real people.

Sunak says he wants to stop people being exploited by criminal gangs. Why does Labour remain on the side of the criminal people smugglers.

Alun Cairns (Con) says people in Wales have to wait longer for NHS treatment than in England. Does Sunak agree Aneurin Bevan would be turning in his grave over Labour’s record?

Sunak does agree. It is clear the government should stick it its plan, he says.

I have updated some of the earlier posts with direct quotes from the Sunak/Starmer exchanges. You may need to refresh the page to get them to appear.





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