Corbyn accused of stupid woman jibe

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Media captionPMQs: Does Jeremy Corbyn call May a ‘stupid woman’?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing calls to apologise for apparently calling Theresa May a “stupid woman” during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The prime minister was mocking Mr Corbyn during heated exchanges, telling him to “look behind you” when he was caught on camera muttering words.

Conservative MPs called on the Labour leader to be ordered to apologise.

Speaker John Bercow said he had not seen the alleged incident and so could not “immediately” rule on it.

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AFP/Mark Duffy/UK Parliament

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Tory MPs and ministers seek to show the speaker the clip on their phones

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “He did not call her a stupid woman and so I don’t think there’s any basis for an apology. As I understand it, he said ‘stupid people’.”

The spokesman said Mr Corbyn was referring generally to MPs who were not taking the issues being debated seriously.

Asked about lip readers saying that Mr Corbyn had said “stupid woman”, he added: “Lip reading is open to doubt – he is adamant he didn’t say it.”

The Labour leader had “no time for misogynistic statements”, the spokesman said, after some Conservatives accused Mr Corbyn of being sexist.

Mr Corbyn had clashed with the prime minister over her Brexit deal, calling her decision last week to delay a vote on it a “deeply cynical manoeuvre” from a “failing” prime minister.

Mrs May hit back at Mr Corbyn, saying he had not tabled his promised no-confidence motion, and had then tabled one that was ineffective.

“I know it’s the… pantomime season,” she told MPs, “is he going to put a confidence vote? Oh yes he is,” she said, prompting backbench Tories MPs to chant “oh no he isn’t”.

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Continuing the pantomime theme, she told the Labour leader “look behind you – they are not impressed and neither is the country”.

Mr Corbyn could be seen saying something under his breath in response.

Former minister Sir Patrick McLoughlin used a point of order to accuse Mr Corbyn of having “muttered” that Theresa May was a “stupid woman”.

Cries of “shame” and “disgraceful” were heard from the Tory benches at this point.

Sir Patrick added: “Would it not be appropriate for him to come back into this chamber and apologise?”

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 Mr Bercow of his failure to apologise to her for calling her a “stupid woman” during an incident earlier this year.

Mr Bercow said he had already dealt with that matter.

He repeatedly insisted he wanted to see the evidence before “pronouncing” on Mr Corbyn’s “innocence or guilt”.

Former minister Anna Soubry suggested Mr Bercow would be more inclined to take action if the words had been uttered by a Conservative frontbencher at a female Labour MP.

Mr Bercow, who was being shouted at and heckled by Tory MPs, responded saying: “I cannot be expected to deprecate the behaviour of an individual which I did not witness.”

Tory MP Caroline Johnson said the issue had caused “significant upset” and asked when the Speaker would respond.

Mr Bercow said her request was “reasonable” and he would respond later on Wednesday following government statements on immigration and Yemen.

Veteran Labour MP Margaret Beckett suggested the accusations were party political:

Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse said: “Sexism in any work place is not acceptable and it is time Jeremy Corbyn left the 1980s behind.

“Young women from up and down the country will have watched this exchange today and it is no surprise so many of them are put off participating in politics. If the allegations are true, Jeremy Corbyn must apologise.”

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