UK minister apologises for 'unparliamentary language'

James Cleverly had been under pressure to say sorry following claims he cast aspersions on a north of England constituency in the House of Commons

By AFP

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Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly. — Reuters file
Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly. — Reuters file

Published: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 10:23 PM

Britain's interior minister James Cleverly apologised on Thursday for breaching UK parliament politeness rules after a strongly worded off-mic criticism of a Labour MP, a source and a spokesperson said.

Cleverly had been under pressure to say sorry following claims he cast aspersions on a north of England constituency in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

But a source close to the Conservative minister said his remark had been directed towards the MP for Stockton North, not the constituency itself.

"James made a comment. He called Alex Cunningham a shit MP. He apologises for unparliamentary language," the source told AFP.

The UK parliament describes "unparliamentary language" as that which "breaks the rules of politeness in the House of Commons Chamber.

"Words to which objection has been taken by the Speaker over the years include blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor," it added.

Cleverly's remark came after Cunningham had asked during the weekly prime minister's questions session: "Why are 34 per cent of children in my constituency living in poverty?"

Cunningham later claimed that Cleverly had been "seen and heard to say 'because it's a shithole'."

Audio recordings were inconclusive.

"As was made clear yesterday, he would never criticise Stockton. He's campaigned in Stockton and is clear that it is a great place," the person close to Cleverly added.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted the UK leader still has full confidence in Cleverly.

"I've also seen that the home secretary's team has clarified and provided an apology for using unparliamentary language. We don't have anything further to add to that," she told reporters.

Cleverly replaced right-wing firebrand Suella Braverman as interior minister in a shakeup of Sunak's top team last week that saw ex-prime minister David Cameron become foreign secretary.


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