Sadiq Khan urges ‘calm debate’ as MP avoids Labour conference due to threats

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Rosie Duffield says she has been targeted with online threats (PA) (PA Archive)
Rosie Duffield says she has been targeted with online threats (PA) (PA Archive)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said it is “unacceptable that anybody feels unsafe” going to the Labour conference, following reports MP Rosie Duffield will miss the event on security advice.

Ms Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, has reportedly pulled out of attending her party’s gathering in Brighton later this week amid online threats from transgender activists, according to The Sunday Times.

She told the newspaper: “We have had Labour MPs who have had to have security at conference over the past few years, and I didn’t want that sort of attention or to become the story. I just thought it was better for everyone if I quietly stayed away.”

We must be able to have this conversation in a civilised way

Sadiq Khan

Asked on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show whether “someone who thinks that only women have a cervix” is welcome at conference, Mr Khan said: “They are. One of the things about the Labour Party is it’s a chance to debate, discuss, have disagreement in a respectful way.

“It’s unacceptable that anybody feels unsafe going to the 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 and I make this point which is really important: One out of four trans teenagers tries to kill themselves, these are one of the most vulnerable members of our society and it’s really important we have this debate in a cool, calm, respectful way.”

Labour MP Pat McFadden said he would be “appalled if Rosie thought she couldn’t go to the Labour Party conference”.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme: “Every MP should be safe at Labour Party conference or at their own party conference. We had this a few years ago, you may remember with Luciana Berger.

“I was appalled then and I think first of all, 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.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said ‘too many people have been targeted for their opinion or the office they hold’ (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA) (PA Media)
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said ‘too many people have been targeted for their opinion or the office they hold’ (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA) (PA Media)

“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, then being placed completely beyond the pale and subject to terrible online abuse or threats or anything like that, and we’ve got to find a way to work through issues where people can say things where someone else might disagree, some of these issues are not easy, without the consequence that you’re talking about here.”

In a statement, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Parliamentarians, who have been elected to speak up for their constituents, should be able to attend their own party conference without fear of harm.

“It is why we chose to discuss the security of MPs, their staff, journalists and other public figures at our G7 Speakers’ conference this weekend, because too many people have been targeted for their opinion or the office they hold.

“In order to protect democracy, we need to ensure those participating can do so without threats of intimidation.”

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