Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab was heard mispronouncing Paul O’Grady’s name in the House of Commons as he paid tribute to the late TV presenter who has died at the age of 67.
Mr Raab, who was filling in for Rishi Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) said “Paul Grayson” was an “incredible comic” after MPs highlighted the impact of the late chat show host.
In tribute, Sir Chris Bryant told the House of Commons: “I don’t know whether the Deputy Prime Minister ever met Lily Savage or has ever spent a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, but… I can take him some time if he wants to go?”
As MPs erupted in laughter, the Labour MP added: “Her alter ego, Paul O’Grady, campaigned acerbically and hilariously for elderly people, for care workers, against oppression of every kind.
“Isn’t it time we in this country celebrated our naughty, hilarious drag queens and comics of every kind who inspire us to be a better and more generous nation?”
Mr Raab said: “I totally agree with him: Paul Grayson was an incredible comic”, before correcting himself saying: “Paul O’Grady… but in terms of Lily Savage, I think some of that comedy broke glass ceilings and broke boundaries in a way certainly politicians would struggle to do. So I agree with that.
“I also think it shows how we need greater, more rambunctious free speech, and we need to avoid the wokery and the limitations on comedy, which I’m afraid both of them would have had no time for.”
Earlier, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, who was speaking in place of Sir Keir Starmer, told the Commons: “I’m sure the whole House will join me… in paying tribute to Paul O’Grady after his sad death was announced today.
“He was a national treasure and a true northern star and he will be greatly missed.”
Mr Sunak and Sir Keir were attending the funeral of the only female Speaker of the House of Commons, Baroness Betty Boothroyd, who died in February at the age of 93.
On Twitter, the Labour leader said he was “deeply saddened” at the death of O’Grady, whom he called a “wonderfully warm and generous person” who “entertained the nation whilst campaigning for the causes he was passionate about”.
He added: “His love and compassion, for people and animals, shone out from him and inspired so many. My thoughts are with (his partner) Andre and all of Paul’s family and friends.”
Shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting also wrote on Twitter: “I had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of occasions.
“As funny, generous, and fiercely principled in life as he was on TV.”
O’Grady was a “hero of the LGBT community and will be terribly missed by many”, the group LGBT+ Conservatives wrote on Twitter.
The Tory-affiliated organisation said: “An immensely influential man who paved the way for so many: be this in drag, entertainment, LGBT rights or animal welfare. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time. RIP.”
The presenter began his career performing as Lily Savage in the 1970s while working as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council.
The London borough wrote on Twitter: “We are proud that Paul O’Grady is part of Camden’s history & of the legacy that he leaves.”