In praise of Rosie Duffield

The Labour MP has stood by her commitment to women’s rights despite endless vile abuse.

Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams
Columnist

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Topics Feminism Free Speech Identity Politics Politics

Rosie Duffield is a rarity among politicians: the Labour MP for Canterbury has principles. She repeatedly puts her neck on the line in defence of women’s sex-based rights, even when doing so puts her at odds with the party’s hierarchy. And she continues to speak up for what she believes in despite being on the receiving end of torrents of vile online abuse. Now Duffield is ‘considering her future’ in the Labour Party over the ‘obsessive harassment’ she receives.

When Duffield was first elected in 2017, Labour’s bigwigs and hangers-on fawned over the county’s only Labour MP and the first person to turn Canterbury red in over a century. When she spoke in parliament about her experiences of domestic abuse, colleagues were reduced to tears. Her successful re-election in 2019 came after rallies attended by then shadow cabinet minister Emily Thornberry, Danish darling of the BBC Sandi Toksvig, and journalist Owen Jones. Duffield could, at this point, have kept her head down and found herself feted and promoted. She chose not to.

In 2020, she committed the horrendous crime of ‘liking’ a tweet by Piers Morgan. Morgan had replied ‘Do you mean women?’ to a tweet advising ‘individuals with a cervix’ to get cancer screenings. Duffield was ‘flooded with complaints’ for her single ‘like’ but, rather than backing down, she hit back. She tweeted: ‘I’m a “transphobe” for knowing that only women have a cervix…?!’ As she soon discovered, simply stating biological facts is indeed enough to have you branded a transphobe and turned into a legitimate target for abuse. And of course, at this point she also learned that no one in the Labour Party would be prepared to come to her defence.

Over the past two years, Duffield has continued to speak out against the erasure of women and in defence of women’s rights. She has made clear her opposition to males who self-identify as women being permitted access to single-sex spaces such as domestic-violence refuges, school toilets and women’s prisons. And, every single time, she has been attacked for expressing these views. Duffield was warned to stay away from last year’s Labour Party conference on security grounds, but she spoke at a ‘non-official’ fringe event. She attended a conference organised by the LGB Alliance and appeared on a panel entitled ‘Cancel Culture and Free Speech’. She has defended her views on the BBC and branded her own party an ‘absolute embarrassment’ on women’s rights and gender identity.

Brave and principled, Duffield has been dropped by her erstwhile supporters. Owen Jones issued a grovelling apology for organising her election rally. Meanwhile, local party members obsess over Duffield’s every move and meticulously gather evidence of her sins. This weekend saw the publication of yet another anonymous blog making unsubstantiated claims. Duffield now stands accused of having moved 200 miles away from her constituency to live with her partner in Wales. It isn’t only her living arrangements that are pored over – every aspect of her private life and public role is subjected to scrutiny. Her parliamentary expenses, the amount of time she spends in Canterbury, the time it takes for her to respond to mail, the number of people who work in her constituency office and the schools her sons attended have all been examined and found wanting – by members of her own party.

In response to the latest allegations, Duffield tweeted: ‘I am aware of yet more personal, libellous, nasty and fictional crap being published about me again today. All published/written by ex and current @UKLabour members who are clearly absolutely obsessed by my private life.’ Sadly, but unsurprisingly, she concluded: ‘I am today considering my future in the Party very carefully.’

I live in Canterbury and Duffield is my MP. There is no question in my mind that she is treated more harshly than other MPs because woke campaigners and local activists do not like her views. If she could be intimidated into keeping quiet, then she would be left to claim however much she liked in expenses. What’s more, those intent on ousting Duffield know all too well that the cowardly Labour elite will do nothing to defend the Honourable Member for Canterbury. Lily-livered Keir Starmer declared that stating only women have a cervix, as Duffield has done, is ‘something that shouldn’t be said’.

I am proud to call Rosie Duffield my MP. In speaking up so vocally in defence of women’s sex-based rights, she represents my views – and the views of other women in the constituency – on a key issue of our day better than almost every other MP. Her bravery and her refusal to back down inspire me. I might even vote for her if she’s still standing for office next time there’s a General Election.

Joanna Williams is a spiked columnist and the director of Cieo.

Picture by: Getty

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Topics Feminism Free Speech Identity Politics Politics

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