Rosie Duffield ‘wants to be pushed’ from Labour, says MP – but it’s unlikely to happen

Photo of Rosie, smiling, wearing a red jacket, on a newspaper with the headline Labour

Labour has a Rosie Duffield problem – but Keir Starmer appears reluctant to do anything about it.

Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, has repeatedly found herself at the centre of controversy over her exclusionary views on trans people.

Since she first waded into the discourse around trans people in 2020, Duffield has called trans women “male-bodied biological men”, wrongly claimed trans children are making themselves “infertile” (through surgeries in fact only available to adults) and said that only women can have a cervix.

Two staffers quit her office in 2020 citing her “transphobic” comments, and there have been calls for her to lose the whip.

Duffield denies she is transphobic. She says that she’s simply concerned about women’s rights, for example, suggesting that Scottish gender recognition reform would allow men to apply for a gender recognition certificate, wait three months, in order to enter women’s spaces.

Writing for UnHerd on 20 January, Duffield said Labour had “a woman problem” because Starmer’s office hasn’t defended her from criticism. It’s not the first time she’s been critical of her treatment, and she’s previously said she was considering her future with Labour.

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In fact, Starmer is facing pressure from grassroots groups to eject her from the party – something many agree seems unlikely to happen.

Roșie Duffield in her official parliamentary photo. The MP stands wearing a red blazer and grey blouse against a grey background.
Roșie Duffield in her official parliamentary photo. (UK Parliament)

Labour sources described Duffield as somebody who thrives on attention, and who is “undermining” the party.

One Labour MP, speaking anonymously, told PinkNews: “I suppose at some point it’s better to have people p**sing out of the tent rather than in to it, but I think even those who don’t have strong feelings about the ‘debate’ are getting tired of her constantly undermining us all and attacking colleagues online.”

“I think she wants to be pushed rather than to leave, to make herself a martyr.

“She thrives on the attention and I wish everyone would stop giving her it.” 

Another Labour MP said there are small factions of the parliamentary party who feel strongly for and against her – but that most just wish she was more tactful. As a result, many don’t support her losing the whip.

It’s been suggested that stripping Duffield of the whip would risk inflaming tensions around trans rights and “gender critical” activism – something that doesn’t align with Labour’s ‘government in waiting’ strategy. But for queer and trans members, doing nothing isn’t good enough.

‘Indefensible’ that Rosie Duffield is still in the Labour Party

At a grassroots level, LGBTQ+ members and activists within the party are furious with Starmer for his refusal to remove the whip.

Labour leader Keir Starmer in front of a red background
Labour abstained from the vote (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Alex Charilaou is a former Canterbury constituent who campaigned for Duffield in 2017.

Her election was a historic moment – it represented the first time in 160 years a Labour candidate had won the seat.

Like most grassroots members, Alex, now Labour Students’ trans officer and co-chair of Labour for Trans Rights, thought Duffield was a good prospect for the party at the time – but everything changed when she made her views on trans people public. 

“I never actually met Rosie but my impression was she was a soft left MP, she had done great work on domestic violence,” Alex says.

“My impression between 2017 and 2019 was that she was a principled feminist politician.”

Alex believes the situation with Duffield is “getting worse and worse”. And with Starmer appearing to row back on his previous unequivocal support for trans rights – coming out against Scotland’s gender recognition reforms – it feels as though walls are going up.

Alex Charilaou at a trans rights protest. They are pictured with people in the background holding placards that read "trans rights now".
Alex Charilaou at a trans rights protest. (Supplied)

“Doing trans organising for the Labour Party at the moment feels like banging your head off a brick wall,” Alex says.

“The Labour leadership will not speak to trans activists in the party. They’ve denied our requests to have a meeting with Starmer to talk about his Mumsnet interview and the continued problem of Rosie Duffield.

“There’s been absolutely no willingness on the part of the leadership to engage at all on trans rights.” 

As far as Alex sees it, it’s long past time for Duffield to be kicked out of the Labour Party.

“She shouldn’t have been in the party about two years ago. It’s just indefensible.”

Alex hopes Starmer and others at the highest echelons of the Labour Party will see that they’re alienating an entire cohort of current and future voters by refusing to stand up for the trans community.

“As well as it being complete moral cowardice on the part of Keir Starmer, it’s so short sighted.

Trans rights activists march through central London after a protest outside Downing Street on 21 January 2023.
Trans rights activists march through central London after a protest outside Downing Street on 21 January 2023. (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty)

“I was at a trans protest this week in London at Downing Street and it was overwhelmingly young people. That’s Labour’s electorate going into the next election and going into elections for decades to come.

“Is Keir Starmer really willing to alienate whole swathes of the British electorate just to play at this culture war with the Tories? 

“I don’t think that’s going to end well.”

PinkNews has contacted the Labour Party and Rosie Duffield for comment. No response had been received by time of publication.

Duffield has repeatedly denied accusations that she is “transphobic”.

She previously branded backlash against her views as a “tedious Communist pile-on”.