Rishi Sunak brands David Tennant ‘the problem’ in trans rights row with Kemi Badenoch (2024)

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Rishi Sunak has intervened in a deepening row between Kemi Badenoch and David Tennant over LGBTQ+ rights, appearing to brand the actor “the problem”.

The Doctor Who star said he wished the women and equalities minister would “shut up” and suggested he hoped for a world in which she “doesn’t exist anymore”, while she fired back that he was a “bigot”.

The prime minister waded in on the spat on Wednesday morning, writing on X, formerly Twitter: “Freedom of speech is the most powerful feature of our democracy. If you’re calling for women to shut up and wishing they didn’t exist, you are the problem.”

Rishi Sunak brands David Tennant ‘the problem’ in trans rights row with Kemi Badenoch (2)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he “wouldn’t have engaged in the way” Mr Tennant did, telling broadcasters: “I think in politics, as in life, it’s really important that we are able to robustly disagree with others. Obviously, that happens a lot in the general election campaign, but we should do it with respect for everybody involved in that robust discussion.”

The women and equalities minister has fronted the Tory election pledge to make biological sex a protected characteristic in the Equality Act. Currently, gender reassignment is a protected characteristic.

Ms Badenoch vowed to continue speaking out and accused Mr Tennant of being a “rich, lefty, white male celebrity so blinded by ideology” in a post to X on Tuesday following his damning remarks made about her at the British LGBT Awards on Friday.

Home Secretary James Cleverly was also among those who interjected in the row, calling for Mr Tennant to apologise for his remarks, as he wrote on X: “I’m not sure David understands the irony of trying to silence the voice of the most senior Black female politician in the UK’s history, in the name of ‘defending’ a minority community.”

Rishi Sunak brands David Tennant ‘the problem’ in trans rights row with Kemi Badenoch (3)

Mr Tennant, who won Celebrity Ally at the ceremony, received cheers and applause when he said of the Conservative Cabinet minister: “I don’t wish ill of her, I just wish her to shut up.”

Ms Badenoch hit back, saying: “I will not shut up. I will not be silenced by men who prioritise applause from Stonewall over the safety of women and girls.

“A rich, lefty, white male celebrity so blinded by ideology he can’t see the optics of attacking the only black woman in government by calling publicly for my existence to end.

“Tennant is one of Labour’s celebrity supporters. This is an early example of what life will be like if they win.

“Keir Starmer stood by while Rosie Duffield was hounded. He and his supporters will do the same with the country.

“Do not let the bigots and bullies win.”

Mr Tennant is “one of the LGBTQ+ community’s most fierce allies and supporters”, according to the British LGBT Awards, and “often does red-carpet interviews while wearing pins associated with the community, with one particular Doctor Who-themed Tardis badge, designed in the colours of the Trans Pride flag, helping to raise thousands of pounds for charities”.

He said in his acceptance speech: “If I’m honest I’m a little depressed by the fact that acknowledging that everyone has the right to be who they want to be and live their life how they want to live it as long as they’re not hurting anyone else should merit any kind of special award or special mention – because it’s common sense, isn’t it?

Rishi Sunak brands David Tennant ‘the problem’ in trans rights row with Kemi Badenoch (4)

“It is human decency. We shouldn’t live in a world where that is worth remarking on.

“However, until we wake up and Kemi Badenoch doesn’t exist any more – I don’t wish ill of her, I just wish her to shut up – whilst we do live in this world, I am honoured to receive this.

“I am thrilled to be here and to be a part of this night. Pride is very important in our house, it’s a family affair, we have skin in the game, so this event tonight thrills me.

“It gives me hope, it gives me fire, it gives me energy and deep joy, and even if I feel I don’t really deserve this, I’m very pleased and very proud to be receiving it.”

Mr Tennant won his award alongside Soft Cell’s Marc Almond (Lifetime Achievement prize), Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli (Broadcaster, Journalist or Host), Rylan Clark (LGBT+ Celebrity), trans campaigner Charlie Craggs (Online Influencer) and former England forward Lianne Sanderson (Sports Personality).

The Gender Recognition Act is the law that governs gender recognition certificates, which entitle people who have transitioned to a new birth certificate reflecting their acquired gender.

Rosie Duffield, who became a Labour MP in 2015, withdrew because of “constant trolling, spite and misrepresentation from certain people – having built up over a number of years and being pursued with a new vigour during this election”.

Ms Duffield has previously said she has “feminist and gender-critical beliefs” and that she believes “male-bodied people should not be included in lists of murdered women”.

When asked about the Conservatives’ proposals earlier in June, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper accused the Conservatives of “a cynical distraction from the litany of Conservative failures to try and once again stoke up a phoney culture war”.

Labour shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has previously urged parties to “stop this being a political football”, when asked about trans guidance in schools on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.

Rishi Sunak brands David Tennant ‘the problem’ in trans rights row with Kemi Badenoch (2024)

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