Andrea Jenkyns: what gesture did education minister make, and how have other politicians responded?
Jenkyns has since tweeted to describe her actions as “only human”, though conceded she “should have shown more composure”
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The newly appointed education minister, Andrea Jenkyns, has been criticised for making a middle finger gesture towards protesters.
Jenkyns, who at the time was on her way to watch Boris Johnson’s resignation speech, has since justified her actions as “only human”. While she did suggest she “should have shown more composure”, she has not apologised.
Here’s everything you need to know about Andrea Jenkyns swearing at protestors.
Who is Andrea Jenkyns?
Andrea Jenkyns is the Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire. On Friday 8 July, she was appointed parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Education, which means she’s the most junior minister in that department.
Jenkyns was first elected to parliament in 2015, unseating then Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, and going on to become a vocal critic of Theresa May over Brexit. Jenkyns is a prominent figure in the European Research Group, an internal Conservative Party pressure group characterised by its hardline Euroscepticism.
Jenkyns was supportive of plans to deport asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda, and recently wrote an editorial about transgender athletes, saying “we live in an age where the realities of genetic biology are under fire and where pronoun pride has replaced common sense and reason.”
What did she do?
Jenkyns, arriving at Downing Street to watch Boris Johnson’s resignation speech, was filmed making a middle finger gesture at gathered protestors.
She subsequently shouted at the crowds “He who laughs last, laughs the loudest. Wait and see!”
What has Jenkyns said about it since?
In a statement posted to twitter, Andrea Jenkyns said “On Thursday afternoon I went to Downing Street to watch the Prime Minister’s resignation speech. A baying mob outside the gates were insulting MPs on their way in as is sadly all too common.
“After receiving huge amounts of abuse from some of the people who were there over the years, and I have also had seven death threats in the last 4 years. Two of which have been in recent weeks and are currently being investigated by the police, I had reached the end of my tether.
“I responded and stood up for myself. Just why should anyone have to put up with this sort of treatment.
“I should have shown more composure but am only human.”
Has Jenkyns spoken about experiences of abuse before?
In 2019, Jenkyns shared a picture of graffiti in her office reading “Andrea just kill yourself pls”. At the time, she explained to local constituency newspaper the Wakefield Express that this followed a separate incident of a sexually explicit threatening email, as well as a further incident in which someone was taken to court for threatening her.
Jenkyns subsequently came under criticism in early 2020 when she provided a character reference for a Conservative party activist taken to court for threatening Yvette Cooper (MP and wife of Ed Balls, who Jenkyns unseated in 2015). Jenkyns said that Joshua Spencer – who left messages online boasting he was “already organising to hurt [Cooper]” in response to her support for remaining in the EU – was a “decent and honest person whose heart is in the right place”, and noted his history of mental health difficulties.
Spencer was jailed for nine weeks and given a 10-year restraining order.
Have any other politicians commented?
Mark Spencer, Leader of the House of Commons, told BBC Breakfast that the gesture was unacceptable.
“I don’t seek to condone that at all,” said Spencer. “I mean, Andrea will have to… justify that for herself. But I do understand emotions were running pretty high and they were pretty raw on that day. But I don’t think that was the right thing to do at all.”
Meanwhile, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson tweeted: “Ministers aren’t expected to be perfect. But is it really too much to ask that they don’t treat the public like this?”