LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joked that the leader of the opposition Labour Party could not define what a woman was, during a parliamentary exchange on Wednesday that the mother of a murdered transgender girl had been invited to watch.
Last week, two teenagers were jailed for the murder of Brianna Ghey, who was stabbed 28 times with a hunting knife, and a Labour lawmaker had invited Ghey’s mother to watch Sunak’s weekly question-and-answer session in parliament.
In an exchange with Labour leader Keir Starmer, who had said Ghey’s mother was watching, Sunak said “defining a woman” was on a list of Starmer’s broken promises, joking it had been “only 99% of a U-turn”.
In reply, 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.”
Sunak has said “a man is a man and a woman is a woman” and has criticised Starmer, saying he “still does not know what a woman is”. Wednesday’s jibe appeared to be in reference to a comment from Starmer, when questioned about his views on transgender issues last April, that 99.9% of women “of course haven’t got a penis”.
Sunak’s press secretary said the prime minister had been listing Labour’s U-turns and to do so was “totally legitimate”. She said she did not accept that it was a transphobic remark.
A Labour spokeswoman told reporters: “We think the comments from him are deeply offensive to trans people and he should reflect on his response … and apologise.” Ghey’s mother was due to meet Starmer after the session.
Sunak did not address Starmer’s comment and did not respond to calls from other lawmakers to apologise.
Sky News reported on Wednesday night that the father of the murdered teenager, Peter Spooner, said he was shocked by the prime minister’s comments and felt he “should apologise for his remarks”.
At the end of the session, Sunak did pay tribute to Ghey’s mother, saying: “What happened was an unspeakable and shocking tragedy…
“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 and praise for that.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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