Labour slams Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay's 'deeply offensive' remarks about Mo Mowlam

Posted On: 
19th October 2019

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has come under fire for making "deeply offensive" remarks about late Labour MP Mo Mowlam.

Stephen Barclay was accused of being "crass" over his comments about the late Labour MP
Credit: 
PA

The Cabinet minister provoked fury from Labour MPs after he invoked the memory Ms Mowlam as he attempted to persuade MPs to back the government's new Brexit deal.

Ms Mowlam, who died in 2005, served as Northern Ireland Secretary during the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement which brought an end to 30-years of hostilities in the country.

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But speaking during a Commons speech on Saturday, Mr Barclay attempted to make a joke about the title of Ms Mowlam's biography 'Momentum', linking it to the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group.

"Today is the time for this House to come together and move forward," he told MPs.

"Someone who previously did that and who many members of the House will still remember was the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam.

"Her biography was called Momentum, in the days before it was a faction forcing out its own colleagues."

The comments provoked heckles and cries of "shame" from Labour MPs, forcing Speaker John Bercow to call for calm in the Commons.

But Mr Barclay dismissed the criticism from the opposition benches, saying: "That spirit of bringing people together is what I was seeking to pay tribute to."

Taking to Twitter, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the remarks were "deeply offensive".

"Deeply offensive of the Brexit Sec to use the memory of Mo Mowlem in the chamber to urge us to vote to leave the EU," she wrote.

"Mo was a passionate European who believed it was in all our interests to stick together. She  would never have stopped fighting for us to #Remain #PeoplesVote."

Meanwhile, fellow Labour MP Paul Sweeney said the comments were "crass in the extreme".

"Mo Mowlam would have never backed a deal that will lead to a hard border down the Irish Sea and threaten the peace in Northern Ireland," he said.

"All the UK must stay in the customs union and single market. Put it back to the people for a #PeoplesVote on this deal."​