Keir Starmer urged by Labour members to ‘show some leadership’ and suspend MP Rosie Duffield

Rosie Duffield has been plagued by allegations of transphobia for almost a year.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is being urged to remove the whip from Rosie Duffield MP for “repeated actions” that “can only be described as transphobic”.

Dozens of student Labour clubs and hundreds of Labour members, activists, trade union reps and councillors have signed an open letter calling on Starmer to “show some leadership” by removing the whip from Duffield and suspending her from the Labour Party.

Duffield, who has been Canterbury MP since 2017, should only be reinstated when “she recognises the genuine harm and hurt caused by her views and until trans comrades feel secure with her being a member of the party”, the activists demand.

The letter, which is addressed to Starmer and Labour’s general secretary David Evans, was organised by Lancaster University Labour Club and has been signed by more than a dozen student Labour clubs including those at the universities of Oxford, Swansea, Stirling, Durham, York and Cambridge.

“The Labour Party cannot claim to be a party of social justice and egalitarian values while our transgender comrades are so consistently harassed, minimised and attacked by senior Labour figures,” the open letter begins.

“Namely we wish to draw your attention to the repeated actions of Rosie Duffield MP which can only be described as transphobic.”

Rosie Duffield has previously denied she is transphobic, with a spokesperson for the MP telling LabourList in September 2020: “Rosie fully supports trans rights. She believes passionately that people have the right to live with dignity and be treated with respect in an equal and inclusive society.”

Despite this, on 5 January, LGBT+ Labour – a party-affiliated group that has campaigned for equality since 1975 – called on the Labour party to take “clear and decisive action” after Duffield aligned herself with the co-founder of an anti-trans pressure group amid a swirl of “intensifying” anti-trans online activity.

The open letter continues: “Our trans comrades already suffer enough hardship […] we ask that you show a commitment to improving the world our trans comrades live in, starting with making the Labour Party a safe and welcoming environment for all LGBTQ+ people.

“Rosie Duffield has a long history of making our party less welcoming for transgender people. Two of her staffers, one her only LGBTQ+ member of staff, have quit her employment citing her ‘overtly transphobic‘ views as a main reason for resigning.”

After the second woman resigned, Duffield outed her on Twitter – leading to the trade union for MP’s staff condemning Duffield for “abusing her position” and calling for the Labour Party to immediately launch a formal investigation.

The GMB Members’ Staff union said Duffield’s actions had left the staffer “vulnerable to online abuse and fearful for her safety”.

Alleging that Duffield has “espoused transphobic views” since “as early as 2017”, the open letter asserts that “her views cannot be attributed to a lack of education on the topic”.

“Rather than accept fault or apologise, Duffield has reiterated her views and dismissed the genuine concern of comrades within the party as a ‘tedious communist pile-on‘,” it says.

More than 200 individuals have also signed the letter, including Labour councillors Lizzi Collinge, county councillor for Lancaster East; councillor Sarah Doyle of Riverside ward in Liverpool; and councillor Oliver Robinson of University and Scotforth rural ward in Lancaster.

Several Labour residents of Duffield’s Canterbury constituency, including Jake Puddle of the Canterbury CLP and Julie Wassmer, a former campaigner for Duffield, have also signed.

“We ask: is the leadership of the Labour Party committed to ensuring the party is a safe and welcoming space for trans members?” the letter concludes. “If the answer is yes, then why has no meaningful action been taken to discipline Rosie Duffield?

“Transgender people just want to live their lives free from oppression, they do not wish to be a pragmatic political issue that senior politicians can choose to ignore when it suits them.

“We implore you to show some leadership over this issue, to show to the world that the Labour Party will always stand with its trans comrades.”

Rosie Duffield and the Labour Party have been contacted for comment.