Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a misogyny row after being accused of mouthing “stupid woman” at Prime Minister Theresa May during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The Labour leader was shown saying something under his breath after Mrs May likened his attempt to force a confidence vote in her earlier this week to a Christmas pantomine.
But a spokesman Mr Corbyn denied he had said “stupid woman”, instead insisting he had mouthed “stupid people”, referring generally to MPs.
The Commons descended into uproar as MPs attempted to get Speaker John Bercow to take action against Mr Corbyn, who had left the chamber, and bring him back to explain his remarks.
And Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The mask slips. Jeremy Corbyn’s abuse of the Prime Minister shows what a reactionary misogynist he is.”
Mr Corbyn faced criticism from his own backbenches, with Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy saying: “This is not ok.
“PMQs is a hotbed of emotions but I hope that Jeremy will accept this kind of behaviour isn’t his normal good nature or what we expect of progressive men.”
The Labour leader’s spokesman said that Mr Corbyn had said “stupid people”, referring generally to MPs who were not taking the issues being debated seriously.
He said: “He did not call her a stupid woman and so I don’t think there’s any basis for an apology.”
Mr Bercow, who hit the headlines in May himself after being accused of calling Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman”, told MPs that he did not see what Mr Corbyn had said but that any MP who failed to follow House conventions on conduct had a responsibility to apologise.
In response to repeated requests to look at the evidence, Mr Bercow said: “I am happy to look at that evidence if that evidence exists. I would come back on the matter as advised by the Clerk after the two statements to the House.”
But Tory backbencher Anna Soubry questioned this, saying: “If it was one of my male colleagues on this side of the house that had used that expression against a woman on the front bench of the opposition you sir would take action immediately.”