UK Politics

Cameron sorry over remarks to female MPs

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Media captionMr Cameron says he "must do better" when speaking to MPs during Prime Minister's Questions

David Cameron has said he "deeply regrets" comments he made in the House of Commons to female MPs which have been criticised for being sexist.

In April, the PM said "calm down, dear" to shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle, and told Tory MP Nadine Dorries she was "frustrated".

Mr Cameron told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme "that's not who I am".

Labour's Yvette Cooper said women were angry about what the government was doing, not what he was saying.

Mr Cameron told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "I obviously said some things in the House of Commons that just came out wrong and caused the wrong impression and I deeply regret that.

"This is not an excuse, it's an explanation, but Prime Minister's Questions is very aggressive and confrontational... as a result sometimes it just sounds terrible, so I apologise for that.

"It's not what I'm like, that's not who I am."

He also acknowledged that he "must do better".

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Media captionPMQs: David Cameron 'gives up' on Nick Clegg question

Mr Cameron's "calm down, dear" comment was borrowed from the catchphrase made famous by film director Michael Winner in a car insurance advert.

He used the words during exchanges with Ms Eagle over plans to introduce GP commissioning in the NHS in England.

At the time, Labour's deputy leader and former equality minister Harriet Harman said Mr Cameron's response showed a "patronising and outdated attitude to women".

He has already apologised to Ms Dorries for the way he responded to a question she asked about the clout of the Lib Dems in the coalition.

When Ms Dorries urged Mr Cameron to show his deputy Nick Clegg "who's the boss", the PM said he knew she was "very frustrated".

He then abandoned his attempt to answer her question seriously and sat back down, amid raucous laughter from MPs who took the comment as an innuendo.

He later telephoned Ms Dorries to apologise for the way he handled her question.

On Sunday, Andrew Marr asked Mr Cameron whether he was aware that women voters were "not as supportive of the coalition as others".

'Family budget'

The prime minister acknowledged that economic pressures such as higher food and fuel prices had "probably had an impact on families and on many women".

He told Andrew Marr: "Britain faces a very difficult time right now as countries right across the world do.

"Families in Britain see petrol prices going up, food prices going up, electricity increasing.

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Media captionDavid Cameron told Angela Eagle: 'Calm down dear'

"Many people who work in the public sector have had a pay freeze, and at the heart of many families are women who are worrying desperately about the family budget."

He said he "profoundly believed" he was taking the right decisions to secure a brighter future for Britain, but added: "I think that's probably had an impact on families and on many women and that causes great concern and I understand that."

But Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said he was "typically out of touch" if he thought his only problem with women was spin and presentation.

"He still clearly doesn't get it. Women are angry about what the government is doing, not what he is saying," she said.

"Women are still being hit twice as hard as men, facing record levels of unemployment, major cuts to child care support and women in their 50s face a £5,000 raid on their pensions.

"The prime minister needs to change policy urgently and apologise for what he has been doing, not just what he's been saying."

In an interview in the Sunday Times, Mr Cameron insisted he was not "one of the lads" and had not meant to offend the two female MPs.

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