Rishi Sunak trans joke: what did PM say as Brianna Ghey's mother watched PMQs? Comments labelled as shameful

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Rishi Sunak made a joke about transgender people as the mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey watched PMQs.

Rishi Sunak has been described as "callous and crass" for making a joke about trans people in front of Brianna Ghey's mother.

The 16-year-old trans girl was horrifically murdered by two other teenagers, Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe, who were sentenced on Friday. Her mother Esther, who has been praised by the Prime Minister for her empathy, was a guest of Labour MP Charlotte Nichols at PMQs today.

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Opening PMQs, Sir Keir Starmer explained that Esther was in the public gallery. He told the Commons: “This week the unwavering bravery of Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther has touched us all. As a father, I can’t even imagine the pain that she is going through and I am glad that she is with us in the gallery here today.”

Murder victim Brianna GheyMurder victim Brianna Ghey
Murder victim Brianna Ghey

What was the trans joke that Rishi Sunak made?

Later in PMQs, Sunak was attacking Starmer over the number of U-turns he has made (something NationalWorld has reported previously). He said: "I think I have counted almost 30 in the last year. Pensions, planning, peerages, public sector pay, tuition fees, childcare, second referendums, defining a woman."

The last comment is thought to refer to transgender people - who the PM seems to be implying cannot be considered a woman. Sunak then jokes: "Although in fairness that was only 99% of a U-turn." This appears to reference transgender people's minority status.

The mood in the House of Commons instantly changed, with one backbencher caught saying: "That was disgusting." Starmer immediately responded: "Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.

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"Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility." He added: “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."

Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA WirePrime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire
Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PIC: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire

Has the Prime Minister apologised over his trans joke?

Sunak was given the opportunity to respond later in PMQs. Labour MP Liz Twist asked him: “May I take the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister if he would consider apologising to Brianna Ghey’s mother for his insensitive comment.”

Sunak did not respond directly, but instead said: “If I could just say also to Brianna Ghey’s mother who is here, as I said earlier this week, what happened was an unspeakable and shocking tragedy.

“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. She deserves all our admiration and praise for that.”

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Brianna Ghey's mother Esther Ghey making a statement to the waiting media outside Manchester Crown Court, after a boy and a girl, both 16, have been found guilty of the murder of the teenager in a park in Culcheth, near Warrington. Brianna, 16, was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park on the afternoon of February 11. Picture date: Wednesday December 20, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story COURTS Warrington. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire Brianna Ghey's mother Esther Ghey making a statement to the waiting media outside Manchester Crown Court, after a boy and a girl, both 16, have been found guilty of the murder of the teenager in a park in Culcheth, near Warrington. Brianna, 16, was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park on the afternoon of February 11. Picture date: Wednesday December 20, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story COURTS Warrington. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Brianna Ghey's mother Esther Ghey making a statement to the waiting media outside Manchester Crown Court, after a boy and a girl, both 16, have been found guilty of the murder of the teenager in a park in Culcheth, near Warrington. Brianna, 16, was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back after being lured to Linear Park on the afternoon of February 11. Picture date: Wednesday December 20, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story COURTS Warrington. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire | Peter Byrne/PA Wire

After PMQs, Sunak's press secretary also refused to apologise and said it was "legitimate" to point out Labour U-turns. She said: "If you look back at what the PM 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, I think those are quite serious changes in public policy. And it's legitimate to point those out."

While the Sunak's official spokesperson added: "As the PM said in the House, he's always been very clear his thoughts have been with Brianna's mother and her family at this difficult time. As he said in the House just now, her bravery and empathy does really represent the best of humanity.

"The PM has always been clear that everyone should have been treated with dignity and respect, and in the case of Brianna's mother he has paid tribute to the immense bravery she has shown at this difficult time."

What has the response to Rishi Sunak's trans joke been?

The Prime Minister has been widely condemned by politicians and campaign groups. A Labour spokesperson told reporters: "We don't think the country wants or deserves a Prime Minister that is happy to use minorities as a punchbag. We think the comments are really deeply offensive to trans people, and he should reflect on his response there and apologise."

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She confirmed that Starmer was meeting Esther Ghey this afternoon, to discuss banning children from social media. While gay Labour MP Ben Bradshaw described the PM's words as "vile and disgusting".

A spokesperson from Stonewall, a charity which campaigns for LGBTQ rights, said: "For the Prime Minister to use trans people as a punchline, in front of the grieving mother of a murdered trans child, was cheap, callous and crass. The disrespect and dehumanisation of trans people that we see played out daily in the media and in our political discourse has real life consequences and it has to stop.

"We call on the Prime Minister to apologise unreservedly for his comments, and for him to reflect on how careless words from those in power can and do result in harm."

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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