Jeremy Corbyn denies calling Theresa May 'stupid woman' in PMQs clash

19 December 2018, 14:46 | Updated: 20 December 2018, 06:43

Jeremy Corbyn has denied branding Theresa May a "stupid woman" as the Labour leader faced furious demands to apologise for a muttered comment.

Anger erupted at the end of the last session of Prime Minister's Questions of 2018, as a series of Tory MPs accused Mr Corbyn of a "misogynistic" remark.

At the conclusion of exchanges between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn in the House of Commons on Wednesday, which were dominated by Brexit, the Labour leader appeared to mutter "stupid woman".

After clips of Mr Corbyn's alleged comment spread on social media - and were picked up by MPs still sitting in the chamber - the Labour leader came under fire.

Conservative Party deputy chairman James Cleverly tweeted: "This kind of misogynistic language must not be tolerated."

The Liberal Democrats added to calls for the Labour leader to apologise, with the party's MP Wera Hobhouse saying: "It is time Jeremy Corbyn left the 1980s behind."

MPs returned to the row at the end of PMQs, with a series of Tories raising points of order with Commons' Speaker John Bercow.

Former Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin demanded Mr Corbyn come back to the Commons to apologise.

Around three hours after the incident, Mr Corbyn did return to the Commons but told MPs: "During PMQs today 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'.

"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."

Responding to Mr Corbyn's statement, Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom said: "I think the country and this House will have drawn their own conclusions.

"I deeply regret he [Mr Corbyn] has not seen fit to apologise to the prime minister."

Mr Bercow told MPs he had reviewed TV footage of Mr Corbyn's remark and that it is "easy to see" why the Labour leader's words "might be construed as 'stupid woman'".

However, explaining neither he nor his officials had seen or heard the remarks themselves, "nobody can be 100% certain" by relying on TV footage.

Mrs May responded to the allegations against Mr Corbyn herself during a visit to Heathrow airport after PMQs, as she revealed the government's post-Brexit immigration plans.

She said: "It's incumbent on all of us in the House of Commons to be careful about the language that we use.

"I'm particularly concerned in the year in which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote, I want to see more women encouraged to come into parliament and not put off by the sort of remarks that they might feel have been said in parliament.

"The Speaker made very clear that if an MP uses inappropriate language then they must apologise."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky News, as she made her way into 10 Downing Street for a meeting, that if Mr Corbyn had made the remark as alleged it was "unacceptable".

Mr Bercow, who was accused earlier this year of calling a top minister a "stupid woman" himself, had been dragged into the increasingly dramatic row during further points of order in the chamber at the end of PMQs.

Ms Leadsom asked: "Why it is that when an opposition member found that you had called me a 'stupid woman', you did not apologise in this chamber?"

The Speaker, who has faced scrutiny over separate bullying allegations, told Ms Leadsom he "dealt with that point months ago" and she had made "no reference" to the dispute in their meetings since.

In May, Mr Bercow admitted using the word "stupid" but did not offer an apology.

Tory MP Vicky Ford later referenced Ms Leadsom's point of order, telling Mr Bercow: "May I add the words 'me too'."

After Mr Corbyn's statement, she added: "I have heard the words 'stupid woman' being used in this chamber about myself and, I'm afraid to say, I've heard it from yourself in the Speaker's chair."

But Mr Bercow told Ms Ford she had "at no time previously" made such an allegation and that he treated her with "great respect".

Former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett tried to push back against the anger in the Commons, accusing Tory MPs of trying to turn the Commons into an "orchestrated riot".

Dame Margaret has previously suggested Labour MPs should defend Mr Bercow, a Remainer, from attempts to unseat him as Commons' Speaker as he has treated backbenchers fairly in crucial Brexit legislation.

Mr Cleverly was challenged on Sky News over allegations Chancellor Philip Hammond called fellow Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns a "stupid woman" during a previous session of PMQs in July.

Mr Cleverly said he had not seen that footage, but replied: "If someone oversteps the mark, and if someone calls them out on it, then an apology is the appropriate thing."

Ardent Brexiteer Ms Jenkyns later tweeted: "Maybe it's a trend with those trying to reverse Brexit that they call people a 'Stupid woman'!"