UK’s Cleverly apologises for joke about spiking wife’s drink

LONDON (Reuters) – British interior minister James Cleverly apologised on Sunday after he was reported to have joked about spiking his wife’s drink with a sedative known for its use as a date-rape drug.

The Sunday Mirror tabloid reported that Cleverly, one of the most senior ministers in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, had joked to female guests at an event this month that “a little bit” of the drug in his wife’s drink every night was “not really illegal”.

He reportedly joked that the secret to a long marriage was ensuring your spouse was “someone who is always mildly sedated so she can never realise there are better men out there”.

The newspaper also said it came the same day Cleverly, the minister overseeing law enforcement, announced new measures to tackle drink-spiking, including changes to legislation.

“In what was always understood as a private conversation James, the Home Secretary tackling spiking, made what was clearly meant to be an ironic joke – for which he apologises,” a spokesperson for Cleverly said in a statement.

The Fawcett Society, a women’s rights charity, called on him to resign, while Britain’s opposition Labour Party said Cleverly’s remarks were unbelievable.

“Spiking is a serious & devastating crime,” Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, its home affairs policy spokeswoman, said on X, formerly Twitter.

“Truly unbelievable that the Home Secretary in charge of tackling violence against women & girls could think it OK to make jokes like this. How can victims trust him to take this vile crime seriously?”

Labour currently enjoys a strong lead in opinion polls over Britain’s governing Conservatives ahead of a national election expected next year.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Alex Richardson)