Last week’s PMQs has quickly become one of this year’s biggest stories, as Prime Minister and Conservative Leader, Rishi Sunak, made a comment that is being regarded as derogatory towards transgender individuals. The comment came in the form of a jibe at Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, at his numerous U-turns on policies and promises.
Whilst Starmer called out Sunak for the comment, the Labour Leader should not be held in any high regard as he used Brianna Ghey’s mother as a means to score political points in an election year.
On Wednesday, 7th October, Rishi Sunak made this jibe against Keir Starmer:
“I think I have counted almost 30 [U-turns] 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.”
Starmer, who had invited Esther Ghey – mother of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey – to the House of Commons that day, used these comments to create what has now become a viral moment by calling out Sunak for the trans jibe “whilst Brianna’s mother is in the Chamber” (though she wasn’t at the time).
Much of the discussion post these comments has been centred around a singular question – did Sunak do anything wrong?
The PM himself was faced by that question in a Channel 4 interview where he consistently skirted the issue in favour of pointing out Starmer’s track record on U-turns. Other voices in the Tory Party have spoken on the issue, such as Lord Shaun Bailey, who insisted Sunak did not need to apologise as “he never said anything about it [transphobic comments]”.
On the Labour side, MP Zarah Sultana has voiced her disgust at Sunak’s comments, tweeting on X on the 7th:
“This was the third time in the past year the Prime Minister has made this transphobic jibe at PMQs. It was totally unacceptable today – and it was totally unacceptable on those occasions as well.”
Sunak has made transphobic comments in the past, yet it is worth noting that his jibe at Keir Starmer directly refers to an interview the Labour Leader had with The Sunday Times in which Starmer was asked the question ‘what sexual organs a woman had’, and he responded, “For 99 per cent of women, it is completely biological… and, of course, they haven’t got a penis.”
Sunak has made noticeable remarks on trans individuals, though Starmer’s lack of support for trans rights has rather gone under the radar. However, this lack of support is clear and present in the Labour Leader’s actions, such as informing his MPs to abstain on the Scottish Gender Recognition Act, as well as backtracking on self-ID for trans people. In Britain, it seems no matter who is elected, or who runs the government, people who do not feel comfortable in their own bodies will have to hide their identities, lest they want to become a target for the Right or Labour.