Andrea Jenkyns: what gesture did the education minister make?

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Jenkyns has since tweeted to describe her actions as “only human,” but acknowledged she “should have shown more composure.”

Newly appointed Education Minister Andrea Jenkyns has been criticized for giving protesters the middle finger.

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Jenkyns, who was on her way to watch Boris Johnson’s resignation speech, has since justified her actions as “only human”. Though she suggested she “should have shown more composure,” she hasn’t apologized.

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Here’s everything you need to know about Andrea Jenkyns swearing at protesters.

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Who is Andrea Jenkyns?

LR: Official Parliamentary Portrait by Andrea Jenkyns; a photo of Jenkyns raising her middle finger at protesters (Credit: House of Commons; Alex Clewlow)

Andrea Jenkyns is the Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire. On Friday 8 July she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Education, meaning she is the youngest minister in that department.

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Jenkyns was first elected to Parliament in 2015, deposing then-shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and later becoming a vocal critic of Theresa May over Brexit. Jenkyns is a prominent figure in the European Research Group, an internal Conservative Party interest group notable for its hardline Euroscepticism.

What did she do?

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Jenkyns, who arrived at Downing Street to see Boris Johnson’s resignation speech, was filmed gesturing with the middle finger at assembled protesters.

She then called out to the crowd, “He who laughs last laughs loudest. Let’s wait!”

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What has Jenkyns said about it since then?

In a statement posted to Twitter, Andrea Jenkyns said: “On Thursday afternoon I went to Downing Street to watch the Prime Minister’s resignation speech. A barking mob outside the gates insulted MPs on their way, as unfortunately is all too common.

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“Having received tremendous abuse over the years from some of the people who were there, I have also received seven death threats in the last 4 years. Two of them were in the last few weeks and are currently being investigated by the police, I was at the end of my strength.

“I reacted and stood up for myself. Just why would anyone have to endure that kind of treatment.

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“I should have shown more composure, but I’m only human.”

Has Jenkyns ever spoken out about abuse experiences?

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Jenkyns subsequently faced criticism in early 2020 for providing a character reference for a Conservative Party activist who was tried for threatening Yvette Cooper (MP and wife of Ed Balls, who ousted Jenkyns in 2015). Jenkyns said that Joshua Spencer – who left messages online and boasted that he was “already organizing to hurt [Cooper]’ in response to her support for remaining in the EU – was a ‘decent and honest person with his heart in the right place’, noting his history of mental health problems.

Spencer was jailed for nine weeks and given a 10-year restraining order.

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Have other politicians commented?

Mark Spencer, leader of the House of Commons, told BBC Breakfast the gesture was unacceptable.

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“I’m not trying to condone that at all,” Spencer said. “I mean, Andrea will have to… justify this to herself. But I understand the emotions were running pretty high and they were pretty raw that day. But I don’t think that was the right thing at all.”

Meanwhile, Shadow Education Minister Bridget Phillipson tweeted: “Ministers are not expected to be perfect. But is it really too much to ask that they don’t treat the public that way?”

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