Esther McVey and John Bercow
The minister was compared to a "washing machine" by the House of Commons speaker Getty

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has been caught up in controversy after comparing employment minister Esther McVey to a "washing machine".

Bercow interjected after the minister attempted to give a response to a mental health question raised during a work and pensions session in parliament.

The 52-year-old, who is known as a stickler for concise answers, said: "I am reminded of the feeling when one thinks the washing machine will stop — but it does not!"

Angie Bray, one of McVey's Tory colleagues, stepped in after Bercow's comment and claimed it was "unnecessarily rude".

"I'm not sure it's for him to criticise the style in which she chooses to answer her questions," the Ealing Central and Acton MP said.

McVey, a former GMTV presenter and Wirral West MP, also received some cross-party support from Labour MP Stephen Pound.

"A washing machine metaphor for a woman minister is seldom a good idea. Let's see how he spins his way out of this one!" he said.

The comments come after Labour's Barry Sheerman was accused of sexism by McVey after he called the minister a "hard hearted Hannah".

McVey also alleged that the Huddersfield MP had made similar remarks in the past.

But Sheerman, who has sat in the Commons since 1979, said he was a "long-term champion" of gender equality.

"I have been, I think, known to be a long term champion of the equality of women in our society and at work," he said.

"In questions just a few moments ago, I did refer to McVey as hard hearted Hannah.

"I think she thinks that was a sexist remark, it wasn't meant as that, it is actually a name of a famous song sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

"But she has a reputation for being a very hard champion of the welfare reforms this government has introduced and I believe it was fair comment and unfair to call me a sexist."