Rosie Duffield calls for talks with Keir Starmer on Labour’s trans rights stance

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<span>Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/Rex/Shutterstock

Rosie Duffield has called for Keir Starmer to meet her and other female Labour MPs to discuss the party’s policy on transgender issues, confirming she will not attend Labour’s annual conference over worries she could face abuse because of her views on the subject.

“I took the decision a few weeks ago not to go,” the Canterbury MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I didn’t want to be the centre of attention. This is Keir Starmer’s first conference speech since the pandemic. I think it’s really important we focus on that and the policies that emerge from conference. I really did not want to be the news story.”

Saying she had received some “pretty unpleasant” threats online, and was in contact with the police, Duffield said her worry was mainly about being targeted at the party conference in Brighton, which begins on Sunday.

“It’s hard to know how serious to take threats by people who post them online. But they’re pretty awful, and I did not want to subject myself and other people to that kind of abuse,” she said.

“I’m not imagining they’re necessarily going to physically harm me, but the kind of levels of vitriol is pretty horrible, and I didn’t feel like I wanted to go through that, to be honest.”

Duffield said she hoped to have a meeting with Starmer, and that others sought this too. “Lots of women have been asking to meet with Starmer, in groups or one to one, about this issue. Obviously he’s incredibly busy, but it would be good to just clarify what our position is as a party, and just to discuss how we go forward with this issue.”

Asked what the response had been, Duffield said: “He’s always positive about trying to organise a meeting but it just hasn’t happened yet.”

The Canterbury MP has become a focal point for criticism from some LGBT groups in Labour for actions such as liking a tweet that said “individuals with a cervix” should instead be referred to as “women”.

In July, Labour LGBT groups called for the party to investigate her after she liked a tweet from a gay US rapper which complained about trans groups appropriating the word “queer” and described them as “mostly heterosexuals cosplaying [costume playing] as the opposite sex and as gay”.

Asked if she accepted that liking the latter tweet could have inflamed the debate, Duffield defended her decision, saying the tweet author, whom she knew via social media, was “incredibly distressed and insulted” about what he felt was the appropriation of gay culture, adding: “I think he has a valid right to talk about it without being cancelled.”

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, and Pat McFadden, a shadow Treasury minister, have expressed concern that Duffield feels she cannot go to conference, although neither has endorsed her stance on trans issues.

Khan told the BBC: “It’s unacceptable that anybody feels unsafe going to Labour party conference, whether it’s Rosie Duffield, whether it’s journalists or anybody else. We must be able to have this conversation in a civilised way.”

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