Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tells Rosie Duffield to ‘reflect’ on her views amid transphobia row

Angela Rayner: Rosie Duffield must 'reflect' on her transgender comments

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said this morning that Rosie Duffield, the Canterbury MP who’s been plagued by accusations of transphobia for months, should “reflect” on her comments about transgender people.

Rayner is the first senior Labour politician to publicly comment on the transphobia row that Duffield has been embroiled in since August.

She told Sky News that she’d been “disgusted by some of the bile” she’d seen on social media regarding the “debate around women’s rights and trans women’s rights”, adding that if you think about being a teenager, “the last thing you need is people debating whether you’re valid or not.”

Labour activists are calling for the whip to be withdrawn from Rosie Duffield after the MP liked a tweet from anti-trans campaigner Maya Forstater that branded the Law Society’s guidance on transitioning in professional settings as “celebrating cross dressers in the office”.

Asked what should happen to Rosie Duffield in light of this, Angela Rayner said: “Rosie Duffield has to reflect on the way people feel about those comments.

“We all have to. We all have to reflect on what we say, online and offline, and how that is seen by the people in the public and how sometimes that could be seen as hurtful.

“We need to be more understanding.”

On Twitter, Duffield said that “trans rights are human rights, women’s rights are sacred too” and said that the criticism she was receiving – in a thread with a tweet from LGBT+ Labour co-chair Heather Peto, who is a trans woman – was down to “stranger men I will never meet […] policing my ‘likes'”.

Duffield, who is the chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour Party group, now has “if you’re policing my ‘likes’ you *really* need a new hobby!” in her Twitter bio.

Angela Rayner did not comment further on what should happen to Duffield, but said: “I want to see young people being able to celebrate who they are, being loved for who they are, and feeling resilient as teenagers rather than making them feel that they’re not good enough.

“I think all of us should reflect on that and make sure everything we do, online and offline, is about making people feel better about the person they are, not making them feel bad.”

During the leadership race earlier this year, Keir Starmer signed LGBT+ Labour’s list of pledges, which include a commitment to introducing a “fully independent complaints process” for instances of transphobia within the Labour Party.

He has yet to make a public comment about Duffield.

Why is Angela Rayner calling on Rosie Duffield to ‘reflect’?

At the start of August, Rosie Duffield insisted that “only women have a cervix” and doubled down on accusations of transphobia by labelling the backlash against her a “tedious Communist pile-on”.

Despite criticism from the LGBT+ community for excluding trans men and some non-binary people, Duffield, who was elected Labour’s first-ever Canterbury MP in 2017, spent the next 10 days liking anti-trans tweets.

She then issued an apology insisting that she had “always” supported trans rights and had been “hurt greatly” by the accusations of transphobia levelled against her.

But a cis lesbian, who was Duffield’s only LGBT+ staff member, resigned over the MP’s continued anti-trans statements – and hit back at Duffield’s claim to be a longtime LGBT+ ally.

Sophie* (name changed to protect her identity) told PinkNews that in the weeks after Duffield’s comments, there was a huge influx of “bigotry landing in [our] office” – several hundred more emails and letters each week than usual.

“The support Rosie got from this, and the bigots emboldened by this, is ongoing,” Sophie said. “It’s flabbergasting that a Labour MP should be OK with that – but she’s done nothing to say that she’s not.”

“I cannot put a price on my self-respect or my commitment to LGBT+ rights,” she wrote in her 14 August resignation letter to Rosie Duffield. “While I am in this role I am effectively a representative of you, and I cannot go out and bat for you having heard you say the things that you have, so I must resign.”