Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of misogyny after appearing to call Theresa May a “stupid woman” during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The Labour leader was seen saying something under his breath after the Prime Minister likened his attempt to force a confidence vote in her earlier this week to a Christmas pantomime.
The Opposition leader’s spokesman denied he made the alleged remark as the video footage went viral on social media on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking on a subsequent visit to Heathrow Airport the Prime Minister said that with 2018 marking the centenary of women getting the vote “I want to see more women encouraged to come into Parliament and not put off by the sort of remarks that they might feel have been said in Parliament”.
She added: “The Speaker made very clear that if a Member of Parliament uses inappropriate language then they should apologise.”
The almost immediate circulation of footage of Mr Corbyn prompted uproar in the Commons, with shouting and heckling as a succession of MPs demanded action from Speaker John Bercow.
Mr Corbyn had already left the Common chamber by the time the points of order were raised and his spokesman later said he had not said anything that required an apology.
Other Conservative MPs were quick to attack the opposition leader, with party chairman Brandon Lewis urging him to either “apologise or clarify”.
Mr Corbyn also faced criticism from his own backbenches, with Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, who has talked publicly about misogynist abuse she has faced on social media, 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 afterwards that Mr Corbyn had said “stupid people”, referring generally to MPs who were not taking the issues being debated seriously.
He said he had confirmed the word spoken with the Labour leader personally, adding: “He did not call her a stupid woman and so I don’t think there’s any basis for an apology.”
There were audible cries of “shame” and “disgraceful” as Tory former minister Sir Patrick McLoughlin used a point of order during PMQs to suggest Mr Corbyn should “come back into this chamber and apologise”.
Mr Bercow, who hit the headlines in May himself after being accused of calling Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman”, told MPs that any MP who failed to follow House conventions on conduct had a responsibility to apologise.
He added: “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 he clashed with Mrs Leadsom after she raised a point of order over an incident involving the Speaker.
After repeated jeers and banging from Tory MPs, Mr Bercow said: “I dealt with that point months ago in remarks that I made to the House of Commons to which Ms Leadsom in our various meetings since has made no reference and which requires from the chair today no elaboration whatsoever.”
Tory backbencher Anna Soubry also questioned his response, 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.”