Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has apologised to Jeremy Corbyn after saying the former Labour leader had “gone senile”.
The incident happened when Mr Corbyn, who now sits as an independent MP, tried to raise a point of order in the Commons after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, but was rebuked by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
When Mr Corbyn pushed again, Sir Lindsay asked the Labour frontbench what he was saying, and Mr Streeting replied: “He’s gone senile.”
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Figures on the left of the party attacked the remark on Twitter, with columnist Owen Jones calling it “gross” and Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) member Jess Barnard saying: “No one in our party should be using ageist and derogatory mental health slurs, least of all the shadow health secretary.”
SNP MP John Nicolson also said it was “wrong” to use the word senile as an “insult”, adding: “As someone whose mum had dementia I’m keen that mental health terms are excised from the list of words used as insults.”
Mr Streeting later tweeted the comment had been “in jest”, but accepted it was “in poor taste”. He added: “I’ve dropped Jeremy a note directly to apologise for any offence caused.”
The incident shows that tensions still remain in the party between the frontbench and supporters of Mr Corbyn.
The new leadership team under Sir Keir Starmer has attempted to distance itself from the MP after the disastrous results of the 2019 election and allegations that anti-Semitism was rife in its ranks during his tenure.
But many on the left of the party, both members and backbench MPs, still offer Mr Corbyn their support and believe he has been treated unfairly.
The former leader was suspended by Labour in 2020 after saying the anti-Semitism claims had been “exaggerated”, despite Sir Keir saying comments of this type were part of the problem, and while he was allowed back as a member, he was ousted from the parliamentary party.
It is still unclear whether Mr Corbyn will be allowed back into the party to run as a Labour candidate at the next election, or whether he will be forced to stand as an independent or step down from politics.