Liberal Democrat International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone has called for the editor of the Observer and columnist Julie Burchill to be sacked over a transphobic article.

Burchill was roundly condemned on Twitter for describing members of the transgender community as “a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs” and “dicks in chicks’ clothing” in a column in the newspaper yesterday.

The columnist launched the attack in defence of her friend and fellow writer Suzanne Moore who last week was severely criticised for suggesting women were expected to look like “Brazilian transsexuals”.

Many considered the term to be offensive – not least because Brazil has an appalling record on transphobic hate crime.

Moore then proceeded to use several transphobic slurs in Twitter conversations and then appeared to close her account on the microblogging site on Friday.

Guardian columnist Julie Bindel defended Moore and tweeted @PinkNews last week: “Can those of us who hate bullying PLEASE do something about the trans cabal running a witch hunt everytime they get offended?

Bindel’s tweet quickly drew several critical remarks.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Lynne Featherstone, now an International Development Minister, but previously the Minister for Equalities, described Julie Burchill’s “rant” as “disgusting” and called for her to be sacked.

She said: “Julie Burchill rant against transgender community is absolutely disgusting – a bigoted vomit for which the Observer should sack her.”

Replying to a message on Twitter saying that the editor of the Observer newspaper John Mulholland should be sacked too, Mrs Featherstone said: “Good point – they both can go!”.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian Media Group, which owns the Observer distanced himself from the column yesterday. A spokesperson for the Guardian Media Group said: “We acknowledge the strong reaction to Julie Burchill’s piece published in The Observer. As indicated by Observer editor John Mulholland on Twitter, we are taking such reactions extremely seriously and we have asked our independent readers’ editor to urgently investigate the matter.”

Writing in the Guardian, trans rights activist Roz Kaveney accused Burchill of “bullying the trans community” and of using “hate speech”.