Newly-appointed Education Secretary Andrea Jenkins has hit back at complaints after she made a rude gesture outside Downing Street, saying she was provoked by a “boisterous crowd”.
The Tory MP, a Johnson loyalist, appeared to raise her middle finger as she walked through the street’s black gates in a video released on Thursday night.
In the statement shared on Twitter On Saturday, Jenkins said she should have been “more calm” but refused to apologise, saying the incident came after she had received several death threats.
“On Thursday morning I went to Downing Street to watch the Prime Minister’s resignation speech. The crowd outside the gate insulted the MPs on the way, which is unfortunately all too common,” she said.
“After receiving a huge amount of abuse from some people who have been there over the years and I have also had seven death threats in the last four years. Two of them have been in the last few weeks and are currently being investigated by the police, I’m at my wits end.
“I answered and stood up for myself. Just why should anyone put up with this kind of treatment. I should have been more calm, but I’m only human.”
Earlier on Saturday, House of Commons leader Mark Spencer said Jenkins should explain her behaviour.
Spencer, a former chief whip, told BBC Breakfast that he did not believe the gesture was “at all right” and that Jenkins would have to justify his actions.
“I understand that emotions were pretty high and pretty raw that day. But I don’t think it was quite right,” he said.
Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered Teaching College, wrote to Susan Ackland-Hood, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, to complain about Jenkins’ behavior as a departure from ministerial codes, which require ministers to maintain “high standards of behaviour”. , reports Schools Week.
Pauline wrote: “I understand that these are tense and uncertain times in politics. But appointing to the position of minister a person who is incapable of following the principles of public life is to sink to a new bottom.”
Jenkins’ action was also criticized by Catherine Birbalsing, director and chair of the government’s social mobility commission, who said: “I said a few weeks ago that Boris Johnson is not a good role model for children. I had no idea how bad it could get.’
Jenkins was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education on Friday in a reshuffle by Johnson.
The footage appears to have been taken shortly before Johnson announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party. It is not clear who this gesture was directed at.
On Saturday, George Freeman, the former science and innovation minister who was one of more than 50 ministers to quit the government earlier this week, said: “Ministers should set the highest standards in office. I’m sorry, but this is appalling behavior for a Minister of the Crown.
“This is exactly what we need a new prime minister for: to restore the ministerial code and respect for the duties of public office.”
In response to the video, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: tweeted: “Perfect ministers are not expected. But is it too much to ask that they not treat the population like this?”
Liberal Democrat MP Leila Moran tweeted: “Before politics, I worked as a teacher, where I taught young people to think for themselves, stand up for what is right and treat each other with respect.
“How can we ask young people to behave with Andrea Jenkins as education minister. Apologize or resign.”