THE Prime Minister was criticised by the Leader of the Opposition over a comment made in the House of Commons.

Rishi Sunak attempted to mock Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on ‘defining a woman’ after MPs had heard the mother of murdered transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was watching from the gallery. Esther Ghey was not in the public gallery at the time of the exchange but joined later.

Ms Ghey, from Birchwood, is in London for a Westminster Hall debate secured by Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols on her Peace in Mind campaign.

The project, set up in partnership with the Warrington Guardian, aims to improve mental health and wellbeing support for schoolchildren and establish a lasting legacy for Brianna.

The Labour leader condemned the Prime Minister’s remark, with a chorus of opposition backbenchers calling out: “Shame.”

The exchange took place during the Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Wednesday, as the leaders clashed over the Government missing targets to reduce NHS waiting lists.

Sir Keir said: “He says he stands by his commitments. He once insisted if he missed his promises, these are the words he used: ‘I am the Prime Minister,’ and then he said: ‘It is on me personally.’

“Today, we learn from his own officials that he is the blocker to any deal to end the doctors’ strikes and every time he is asked, he blames everyone else.

“So, what exactly did he mean when he said it is on him personally if he doesn’t meet his promise?”

Mr Sunak replied: “We are bringing the waiting lists down for the longest waiters and making progress, but it is a bit rich to hear about promises from someone who has broken every single promise he was elected on.

READ MORE > Parliament hears debate on bringing mindfulness to schools

“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 – although in fairness, that was only 99 per cent of a U-turn.

“The list goes on, but the theme is the same: it is empty words, broken promises and absolutely no plan.”

Sir Keir hit back, saying: “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.”

The Labour leader 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.”

Sir Keir had opened the session by telling MPs: “This week the unwavering bravery of Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther has touched us all.

Warrington Guardian: The campaign to leave a lasting legacy for Brianna Ghey was set up by her mother, EstherThe campaign to leave a lasting legacy for Brianna Ghey was set up by her mother, Esther (Image: Warrington Guardian)

“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.”

The Prime Minister was later asked to apologise to Esther for his ‘insensitive comment’.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour MP Liz Twist said: “May I take the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister if he would consider apologising to Brianna Ghey’s mother for his insensitive comment.”

Mr Sunak did not directly respond to Ms Twist’s request.

Concluding Prime Minister’s Questions, he 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.”

Number 10 Downing Street has defended Mr Sunak and declined repeatedly to apologise for his language, saying it was part of a 'legitimate' criticism of Labour. 

A spokesman 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 Prime Minister faced further calls to apologise for his joke in the Commons, which was described as transphobic by an SNP MP.

Raising a point of order, Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston, said: “Thank you very much madame deputy speaker for granting me the opportunity to raise concerns and say how horrified I was during Prime Minister’s Questions to hear the Prime Minister 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.

“We come to this place as elected representatives to improve the condition of others, do we not?

“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 she will guide me in how we can make sure the Prime Minister apologises.”

Dame Eleanor Laing said it was not the job of the speaker or his deputies to require Rishi Sunak to ‘say anything different’.

The deputy speaker added: “On behalf of the whole house, I reiterate our enormous sympathy and indeed admiration for Brianna Ghey’s mother for the way in which she has conducted her public profile over this last very tragic time for her and her family, and that is the reflection that this House ought to give that when a tragedy has occurred that we ought to show sympathy and understanding, and not always make political points.”