An MP with cerebral palsy has described how he was mocked about his disability as he tried to speak in the House of Commons.
Paul Maynard, who was elected as the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys last May, accused Labour MPs of “pulling faces” at him in an apparent mimic.
In a recent interview in the Times, he said: “They were constantly intervening, trying to put me off my stride, which may be just normal parliamentary tactics.
“But some were pulling faces at me, really exaggerated gesticulations, really exaggerated faces.”
He added: “Only they know for certain whether they were taking the mick out of my disability. But it felt like it.”
Other MPs confirmed that the incident had taken place, during a debate about the abolition of the child trust fund and calls into question the sometimes highly aggressive and confrontational nature of the Commons. It may also undermine efforts to increase diversity in parliament.
A spokesman for the Labour party said that the incident could have been a “misunderstanding” that took place during the heated atmosphere of a parliamentary debate.
The Labour party stressed that it does not tolerate discrimination and was a consistent campaigner for equality.
However, a female Labour MP, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Times that she had seen the alleged abuse take place.
She said that both sides of the Chamber were guilty of “deeply retrograde and unacceptable behaviour” amongst some MPs and said that younger female MPs were also subjected to “constant sneers”.
Fiona O’Donnell, a Labour MP whose daughter has cerebral palsy, saw the behaviour aimed at Mr Maynard but said that the perpetrators had not realised that he was disabled.
She claimed that they stopped the abuse once they realised the situation.
“Not that I in any way condone the behaviour. What people should do is hesitate before they jump,” she added.
Mr Maynard criticised the “schoolboy antics” of the chamber and said that the adversarial style of the encouraged “childish behaviour”.
Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party and the MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticised the “politics of the playground”, which had at times descended to “cruel comments about people’s appearance”. She added: “We wouldn’t tolerate it in other workplaces and we shouldn’t’t tolerate it here.”
Mr Blunkett said: “There appear to be two elements here; genuine ignorance of Paul’s disability, which is forgivable, and downright prejudice, which is not.” He said it was important not to patronise individuals.