Rishi Sunak condemned by Lib Dems’ Ed Davey for ‘turning trans people into punchline’

Rishi Sunak

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, has condemned Rishi Sunak after the prime minister mocked his support for trans women in video obtained by PinkNews.

Sunak has been roundly criticised after leaked footage, shared on Sunday (18 June, showed him berating Davey for “trying to convince everybody that women clearly had penises”.

In the clip, taken during a party for the Conservative’s influential 1922 Committee, the PM is seen saying: “You’ll all know that I’m a big fan of everybody studying maths to 18. But it turns out that we need to focus on biology.”

After Sunak was criticised by MPs from across the political divide, Davey told PinkNews on Tuesday (20 June) that he found the prime minister’s comments distasteful.

“These are very difficult and sensitive issues affecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said. “We need a good-faith conversation about how to ensure everybody’s dignity and safety, and that isn’t helped by a prime minister turning trans people into a punchline for Conservative MPs.”

Sunak’s comments referred to Davey saying that trans women “quite clearly” can have penises, in an interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari.

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Davey was asked directly whether a woman can have a penis, after being asked to define what a woman is.

The Lib Dem leader attempted to steer the conversation away from the question, which has become common amid growing hostility towards trans people.

“There’s a small number of people who, actually, they have a tough time,” he said. “They’re harassed, they’re discriminated against: real, serious mental-health issues, and we need to debate this with a bit more maturity and a bit more compassion.”

Video of Sunak mocking trans women was taken at the party on 5 June.

A photo seen by PinkNews shows that at least 100 MPs were in attendance, including the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, Kettering MP Philip Hollobone, Desmond Swayne, the MP for New Forest West, in south east England, and the veteran’s affairs minister, Johnny Mercer.

A large number of the MPs can be heard laughing at Sunak’s remarks, which have been labelled “disgusting” by senior MPs.

Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities, Anneliese Dodds, told PinkNews that Sunak’s “childish snickering” is not becoming of a prime minister.

“Trans people should not be used as a political football and these issues should not be trivialised for political purposes,” she said.

A senior Tory MP also condemned the prime minister’s words, saying it was “profoundly depressing” and that the party should be “trying to understand and support, not belittle and demonise”.

During the recording, Sunak can be heard saying: “It shows his spectacular misjudgment and why he’s completely unfit to lead our country.”

While it isn’t explicitly clear who he is referring to, it’s likely that the conservative leader was talking about Keir Starmer, who has also come under fire in the past for his views on trans rights.

Leaked guidelines could see schools forced to ‘out’ students

The backlash against Sunak’s comments comes after draft government guidelines, that would effectively force schools to misgender trans pupils and “out” them to their parents, were leaked by The Sun on Monday (19 June).

If enacted in its current form, the guidance would prevent schools from letting pupils socially transition without explicit permission from parents or guardians.

It would also force head teachers to consult parents if their child expresses a desire to transition.

This involves any desire to be called by another name, use different pronouns, or wear a different gendered school uniform.

Sunak pledged to publish guidance after the right-wing think-tank, The Policy Exchange, published a report claiming that schools were compromising “fundamental safeguarding principles” by not informing parents of their child’s gender identity.

It also recommends preventing school officials from facilitating social transition and almost entirely refutes gender-affirming care.

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