Rishi Sunak refuses to apologise to Brianna Ghey's father after "callous" jibe

london, england january 31 prime minister rishi sunak leaves 10 downing street to attend pmqs on january 31, 2024 in london, england photo by dan kitwoodgetty images
PM refuses to apologise after "dehumanising" jibeDan Kitwood

Rishi Sunak has declined to apologise to Brianna Ghey's father after the grieving dad called on the Prime Minister to say sorry for a "dehumanising" comment he made about transgender people in the Commons on Wednesday.

During PMQs on 7 February, the same day Brianna's mother Esther Grey attended Parliament, Sunak accused Sir Keir Starmer (leader of the Labour party) of U-turning on "defining a woman". He added, "Although in fairness, that was only 99% of a U-turn."

Sir Keir has previously said "for 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological [...] and of course they haven’t got a penis," during an interview with The Times. "There are some people who identify as a different gender to the one they are born with. It’s a very small number."

He added, "That is why the Gender Recognition Act was passed [in 2004]. To recognise that they need legal support and a framework and most people don't disagree with that, and that's the framework within which we ought to look at these issues. But simply turning it into a toxic divide advances the cause of no one, the cause of women or those that don't identify with the gender that they were born into."

Brianna Ghey's father Peter Spooner has since called on Sunak to apologise for his remarks, telling Sky News, "As the Prime Minister for our country... to come out with degrading comments like he did, regardless of them being in relation to discussions in Parliament, they are absolutely dehumanising.

london, england february 07 esther ghey meets with labour party leader keir starmer in the house of commons on february 07, 2024 in london, england brianna ghey, 16, was brutally murdered by scarlett jenkinson and eddie ratciffe, both 15 at the time, in february last year briannas mother, esther ghey, is campaigning for a ban on under 16s using social media on smartphones after the assailants searched for ways to kill in the days before the murder photo by leon nealgetty images
Esther Ghey meets Labour leader Sir Keir StarmerLeon Neal

"Identities of people should not be used in that manner, and I personally feel shocked by his comments and feel he should apologise for his remarks."

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall has also issued a statement calling Sunak's comments "cheap, callous and crass."

"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," the charity said.

One of several MPs to criticise the PM, Sir Keir Starmer said: "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."

However, Sunak has defended his comments. Speaking today he said, "If you look at what I said, I was very clear, talking about Keir Starmer's proven track record of U-turns on major policies because he doesn't have a plan."

The Prime Minister added: "Like everyone, I was completely shocked by Brianna's case. To have your child taken from you in such awful circumstances is almost impossible to come to terms with, and for Brianna's mum to talk with such empathy and compassion about that, I thought, was inspiring and it showed the very best of humanity.

"I've nothing but the most heartfelt sympathy for her entire family and friends.

"But to use that tragedy to detract from the very separate and clear point I was making about Keir Starmer's proven track record of multiple U-turns on major policies, because he doesn't have a plan, I think is both sad and wrong, and it demonstrates the worst of politics."

Esther Grey attended Parliament as part of her campaign to see social media use among under-16s transformed, with social-media-free phones made available being one proposed change.

Her 16-year-old daughter, Brianna, was murdered by Eddie Ratcliffe, a 16-year-old from Leigh, and Scarlett Jenkinson, 16, from Warrington. During the trial, it was found that Jenkinson had watched videos of torture and murder. Both teenagers received life sentences.

Ms Ghey believes "drastic action" is needed to protect children, and she is calling for mindfulness to be taught in schools.

When previously speaking to Cosmopolitan, Ghey said: "If we do teach people to be more empathetic and understanding to other people, then hopefully it can prevent the same sort of crime that's happened to Brianna from happening in the future. For me, it's about building a more empathetic and understanding society."

Paying tribute to her "high energy, funny" child, she added: "When I'm doing this, because I’m quite an introvert and I feel like there needs to be a change, I'm trying to draw on Brianna’s energy to do this. I'm trying to be a bit more like Brianna, with her strength and determination."

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