Call For "Cultural Change" After Rosie Duffield Forced To Skip Conference

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Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury (Photo: Simon Dawson via Reuters)
Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury (Photo: Simon Dawson via Reuters)

A Labour MP has called for “cultural change” after his colleague Rosie Duffield was forced to pull out of their annual party conference over threats.

Pat McFadden said he was “appalled” that Duffield will miss the Labour Party conference that kicks off in Brighton this Saturday.

Duffield has come under fire for comments she has made on transgender rights and claims she was branded transphobic for “knowing that only women have a cervix”.

The MP for Canterbury decided to stay away from conference after receiving advice that her safety and security could be at risk if she chose to attend.

“Every MP should be safe at Labour Party conference or at their own party conference,” McFadden told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.

“We had this a few years ago, you may remember with Luciana Berger, I was appalled then. I want Rosie to be able to go to conference, but more broadly here, I think there’s an important cultural point about how we discuss things.

“Difficult issues have to be able to be discussed in a way that doesn’t result in if someone says something that someone else disagrees with - them being placed completely beyond the pale and subject to terrible online abuse or threats.”

McFadden said we had to “find a way” to discuss issues in which people disagree, adding: “I think it also underlines the need for cultural change. We cannot have this kind of factionalism. We can’t have this kind of intolerance.

“I’m convinced of the need for change in the Labour Party on many fronts. But the internal culture is certainly one of them.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also rowed in behind Duffield, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that she was welcome at party conference.

He added: “It’s unacceptable that anybody feels unsafe going to Labour Party conference, whether it’s Rosie Duffield, whether it’s journalists or anybody else.

“You must be able to have this conversation in a civilised way.”

He said one in four trans teenagers tries to kill themselves and they are some of the “most vulnerable” members of society, adding: “It’s really important we have this debate in a cool, calm, respectful way.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was

The speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has also offered support to Duffield, saying parliamentarians must be able to attend their own party conference without fear of harm. Other Labour MPs including Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy have also spoken out in support of Duffield.

Duffield told the Sunday Times: “LGBT+ Labour now seem to hate my guts and I feared they’d have a massive go at me at conference.”

LGBT+ Labour condemned the attacks on the MP, adding: “We have made clear our political disagreements with Rosie on policy affecting trans people, but political disagreement should never result in abuse or physical threats.

“LGBT+ Labour has never conducted itself in this way and would never encourage anyone else to. It is utterly unacceptable.

“Women in politics are subject to appalling levels of abuse and we are clear it has no place in our party or society.”

It is not the first time a Labour MP has faced concerns about their safety at party conference.

In 2018 Luciana Berger, then MP for Liverpool Wavertree, was given police protection at conference after months of antisemitic abuse.

And in 2017 the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg had to be protected by security guards following abuse.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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