Downing Street says education secretary Andrea Jenkyns not disciplined over rude gesture

Andrea Jenkyns gestured to a crowd outside Downing Street.

Number 10 said it was "not aware" of any disciplinary action against Andrea Jenkyns after the newly appointed education minister faced calls to quit over an offensive gesture at a crowd outside Downing Street.

Politicians from all sides, along with teachers and celebrities, have criticised the Morley and Outwood MP after she was seen raising her middle finger as people gathered at the entrance to Downing Street before Boris Johnson's resignation speech on Thursday, 9 July.

The Department for Education tweeted a welcome to the new minister as she started her new role on Monday.

And, asked by journalists about whether she would face any action, a Downing Street spokesperson said they were "not aware of any disciplinary action at this stage".

Ms Jenkyns made the gesture at a crowd of people gathered outside the gates of Downing Street as she arrived to watch Mr Johnson's speech.

A video of the incident posted on Twitter has been viewed almost 12 million times.

After leaving Downing Street, Ms Jenkyns – a staunch supporter of the prime minister who struggled to hold back tears during Mr Johnson's speech – again confronted the crowd, shouting: "The one who smiles last, laughs the loudest … wait and see."

She was appointed to her new role the following day, but quickly faced a backlash as the video went viral.

The Tory Commons leader, Mark Spencer, told the BBC he could not condone her behaviour.

He said: "Andrea will have to ... justify that for herself. But I do understand emotions were running pretty high and they were pretty raw on that day. But I don’t think that was the right thing to do at all."

Former Conservative minister for science and innovation, George Freeman, added: "Ministers should set the highest standards in office. I’m sorry but this is appalling conduct for a Minister of the Crown."

Liberal Democrat MP and former teacher Layla Moran said she should "apologise or resign". She said "I spent my career before politics as a teacher, where I taught young people to think for themselves, stand up for what’s right and to treat each other with respect. How on earth can we ask young people to behave with Andrea Jenkyns as an education minister?"Criticism also came in from the education sector and the world of celebrity. Katharine Birbalsingh, the self-styled "strictest headmistress in the country", tweeted a picture of Ms Jenkyns. She said: "This education minister used to be a headmistress. I said a few weeks ago that Boris Johnson was not a good role model for kids. I had no idea how bad it could get."

Hollywood actor Hugh Grant took to Twitter to point out that she had previously criticised him for publicly swearing.

Meanwhile the Hollywood actor Colin McFarlane tweeted: "Has the people friendly @andreajenkyns MP resigned or been sacked yet? What a despicable woman. No excuse for this behaviour whatsoever. Never heard of her before and never wish to hear of her again. She needs to go NOW."

Responding to the criticism, Ms Jenkyns said in a statement she had reacted to a "baying mob".

"After receiving huge amounts of abuse from some of the people who were there over the years, and I have also had seven death threats in the last four years," she said.

"Two of which have been in recent weeks and are currently being investigated by the police, I had reached the end of my tether.

"I responded and stood up for myself. Just why should anyone have to put up with this sort of treatment? I should have shown more composure but am only human."

Conservative MP for Newark, Robert Jenrick, the former housing secretary, said MPs, including Ms Jenkyns, had to put up with "unacceptable levels of abuse", but said politicians needed to show restraint.

He told ITV News: "Everybody, whether it's us in public life or members of the public I think needs to have a more respectful dialogue, where we don't get into these spats where people are chanting abuse outside the gates of Downing Street and neither should we respond to that in the way that Andrea did."

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