LONDON — It’s official. We’ve entered the “stupid woman” vs. “stupid people” stage of Brexit chaos.
Yes, just when you thought Britain’s politics couldn’t become any more divisive, members of Parliament (and many other Brits) are now thrashing it out over a controversial utterance from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Did he really call Prime Minister Theresa May a “stupid woman"?
One thing’s for sure: Corbyn said the word “stupid” during prime minister’s question time on Wednesday. What’s up for debate is the word he said next.
It all began with Corbyn slamming May’s handling of Brexit, as Britain’s upcoming withdrawal from the European Union is known, accusing her of "recklessly running down the clock” by delaying a vote on the deal.
May fought back, saying it was rich of Corbyn to accuse her of unreliability after he had waffled on whether to put her leadership to a no-confidence vote.
“Look behind you,” May said gesturing to members of Corbyn’s party. “They’re not impressed, and neither is the country.”
Parliament erupted into jeers, and the camera panned to Corbyn who appeared to mouth — well, you be the judge.
In the United Kingdom, two trending hashtags dominated Twitter for much of Wednesday: #StupidWoman and #StupidPeople. Some observers were adamant that Corbyn’s comment was targeted directly at May, while others sprang to his defense. Deaf people also weighed in, as did professional lip readers who analyzed the clip in detail.
One user said: “SO @jeremycorbyn absolutely does not say #stupidwoman he says ‘stupid people’. My qualifications, deaf for nearly half a century, and I am also a qualified Lipreading Teacher (amongst other things). If you want to know why, read this thread.” The full thread can be found here and goes on to analyze the shape of Corbyn’s mouth and what words supposedly left there.
“The #speaker of the house is claiming he didn’t see #Corbyn call the PM a #stupidwoman — hundreds of people did and we all have smart phones with the footage of him doing it. It’s bullying and misogynistic- damn well deal with it, Mr Speaker,” wrote another riled user.
Corbyn was forced to deny the allegation. “I referred to those who I believe were seeking to turn a debate about the national crisis facing our country into a pantomime as ‘stupid people,’ ” he said, adding “I did not use the words ‘stupid woman’ about the prime minister or anyone else and am completely opposed to the of sexist and misogynist language in absolutely form at all.”
But some Conservative Party members won’t accept that.
“Read my lips — I don’t believe him,” Conservative MP Rachel Maclean said.
Lawmakers also went on Twitter to condemn Corbyn’s behavior, including Stella Creasy, a Labour MP for east London, who wrote: "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 #21stcenturycalling.”