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Did UK Opposition leader call PM May "stupid woman"? Corbyn says no


PTI london
Updated: 19-12-2018 22:24 IST

By Aditi Khanna

(Eds: Eds: Updating with more inputs)

London, Dec 19 (PTI)British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was accused of being a sexist and a misogynist and faced calls on Wednesday to apologise for apparently calling embattled Prime Minister Theresa May a "stupid woman" as they clashed in Parliament over her controversial Brexit deal.

The incident happened days after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he did not personally insult Prime Minister May by calling her "nebulous" after footage emerged of a fiery clash between him and her in Brussels over a supposed jibe.

Opposition Labour Party leader Corbyn was caught on camera mouthing some words during a heated exchange in the House of Commons, which many believe was directed specifically at May but he insisted he had only said "stupid people" .

Conservative Party MPs called on the Labour leader to be ordered to apologise but the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, said he could not "immediately" rule on it as he had not seen the incident in action.

"I did not use the words 'stupid woman' about the Prime Minister or anyone else, and am completely opposed to the use of sexist or misogynist language in absolutely any form at all," Corbyn later said in a statement in the House after being called on by the Speaker to clarify.

"I referred to those who I believe were seeking to turn a debate about the national crisis facing our country into a pantomime as 'stupid people'," he said.

His statement followed hours of parliamentary drama, during which the Speaker said he had employed the expertise of "lip speakers" at short notice in an attempt to curtail the row. He concluded that the Opposition Leader "must be taken at his word" and that it was not up to him to cast judgment on the matter.

"Nobody can be a 100 per cent certain, including any lip reader or lip speaker," Bercow said in his statement during the Commons session.

The BBC had earlier claimed its lip reader had concluded that Corbyn had indeed said "stupid woman" , but his party spokesperson dismissed lip reading as being "open to doubt".

"He [Corbyn] did not call her [Theresa May] a stupid woman and so I don't think there's any basis for an apology. As I understand it, he said 'stupid people'," a Labour Party spokesperson said, adding that he was referring generally to MPs who were not taking the issues being debated in Parliament seriously.

During the controversial exchange, May was mocking Corbyn by telling him to "look behind" at his own MPs who were not impressed with him and neither was the country, when he was caught on camera muttering the dubious words.

Amid cries of "shame" and "disgraceful", Conservative Party MP Paul Scully raised the issue in the Commons, asking May if she thinks it is appropriate for Corbyn to have referred to her as a “stupid woman”.

"I’m particularly concerned, in the year in which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, that women should be encouraged to come into Parliament, and not put off by the sort of remarks that they might feel have been said in Parliament," May said in her response to the incident.

Speaker Bercow, who had earlier said that if a Member of Parliament was proven to have used “inappropriate” language, then they should apologise, himself got further embroiled in the clash when House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom raised his own use of a similar phrase directed at her.

She reminded him of his failure to apologise to her for calling her a "stupid woman" during an incident earlier this year.

Bercow insisted he had already dealt with that matter and on being accused of bias for not taking action against Corbyn, he added: "I cannot be expected to deprecate the behaviour of an individual which I did not witness."

The animated scenes in the House of Commons began during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), when differences over the controversial Brexit Withdrawal Agreement continued to play out. All sides of the UK Parliament have been trading blows over the deal, which remains unacceptable to many over its controversial Irish border proposals.

The row continued after Prime Minister's Questions, with a string of female Conservative MPs joining in with calls for an apology.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom turned on the Speaker himself, reminding Bercow of his failure to apologise to her for calling her a "stupid woman" during an incident earlier this year. Bercow said he had already dealt with that matter.

He repeatedly insisted he wanted to see the evidence before "pronouncing" on Corbyn's "innocence or guilt".

Tory MP Caroline Johnson said the issue had caused "significant upset".

The government has, meanwhile, started planning for a no-deal Brexit – which would mean Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) on March 29 next year without any customs or other agreed border arrangements in place with the economic bloc. The prospect is likely to cause disruptions to different sectors of the UK economy, with supplies of many essentials thrown into doubt.

Ministers have insisted they are preparing for all eventualities as the UK Parliament is set to renew its debate over May’s controversial Brexit agreement in the New Year in an attempt to avert a no-deal crisis.

The Opposition parties are divided over their stand, with many accusing the Labour Party of not taking decisive action by calling a vote of no-confidence in the May-led government.

Prime Minister May survived a separate no-confidence vote tabled by members of her own Conservative Party last week but she came out of the process badly bruised.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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