UK Politics

Jeremy Corbyn hits out at media over 'stupid woman' row

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn criticises media for being "obsessed" with "stupid woman" row

Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at the media's "obsession" with whether he called Theresa May a "stupid woman" at Prime Minister's Questions or not.

The Labour leader said he had actually muttered "stupid people" during heated exchanges with the PM on Wednesday.

Conservative MPs say they do not believe his explanation and are calling for an apology.

Mr Corbyn said he had been reacting to the behaviour of Tory MPs who were mocking him in a pantomime style.

Theresa May had been leading her MPs in a call-and-response routine over Mr Corbyn's shifting position on calling a no-confidence vote, shouting "Oh, yes he did", to a chorus of "oh no, he didn't".

She then told Mr Corbyn pantomime-style to "look behind you", gesturing at Labour MPs and saying "they are not impressed and neither is the country".

Mr Corbyn was caught on camera muttering something under his breath in reaction to this, which Tory MPs instantly claimed was "stupid woman".

The Labour leader said he had been annoyed by the Conservatives "turning the very serious issue of the failure to negotiate properly on Brexit" into "a pantomime".

"I said what they were was stupid people for their behaviour," he added.

Asked by a BBC reporter in Northampton, where he was visiting a homeless shelter, whether he had used respectful language, Mr Corbyn said: "I muttered it to myself, actually, in Parliament, and you and your colleagues in the media seem utterly obsessed with this.

"The fact that a homeless man died outside Parliament has got no coverage whatsoever and it should."

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Media captionMPs called for an apology amid heated scenes in the House of Commons

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said she believed Mr Corbyn had called the prime minister a "stupid woman".

"That is how it looks to me," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

She defended the prime minister's use of pantomime language, saying it was "a bit of parliamentary banter", which "anyone could tell" was different to calling someone a "stupid woman".

She said it was important to "call out" people who did not treat Parliament with "dignity and respect".

But Mr Corbyn's Labour colleagues have accused the Conservatives of whipping up an artificial row to score political points.

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Media captionDiane Abbott says Tory MPs staged a "mini riot" over Jeremy Corbyn's alleged jibe

Shadow Home Secretary, and Hackney North MP, Diane Abbott said Tory MPs had "put on a display yesterday which Hackney primary school children would have been ashamed of".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Corbyn was an honest man and "if he has something to say sorry for he will always say sorry".

"To me it was contrived, staged, behaviour, and the British people might wonder why the Tories will stage a mini-riot in Parliament over that but are not staging a mini-riot over the tens of thousands of people who are newly on Universal Credit and are facing Christmas with no money."

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson told ITV's Good Morning Britain Mr Corbyn had "got up at the dispatch box, he denied using those words, and that is good enough for me".

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