You would have thought that Rosie Duffield would be a hero of the Labour Party. She managed to get elected as Kent’s only Labour MP in 2017 taking the Canterbury seat, which had been Conservative since its formation in 1918, from long-standing Tory, Julian Brazier. She even managed to get re-elected in 2019 with a much better majority.
As she wrote in UnHerd, “I should have been the perfect Labour MP. I was a single mum. I was on benefits, which topped up my salary as a teaching assistant. I understood hardship, and what ordinary women wanted and needed from politics”.
Shut out of next general election
She now finds herself in a position where she has been excluded from the Labour Party’s approved candidate list for the next election.
She has impressed many. She is remembered for her highly emotional and engaging speech in parliament on domestic abuse where she related her personal experiences from a past abusive relationship, a speech that earned rare applause from the House.
Rosie, though, has often attracted controversy. In the Jeremy Corbyn era, she attended a protest march for the adoption of the international definition of antisemitism and agreed with a remark from the Jewish Labour Movement that “Labour probably is institutionally racist”. These actions got her in hot water with the then party’s leadership and some in her local party. It could be argued that the party’s subsequent change in stance on this issue may show that she was on the right side of history.
Scottish bill on gender identity
When the proposed Scottish bill on gender identity was being debated, she spoke in defence of women-only safe places and took a stance against gender self-identity. This gained her support from Harry Potter author J K Rowling. Considering how Rowling was attacked on social media for these views, this would have made Rosie more visible on the issue. It seems that her support for these issues has caused her to become a target for activists who now monitor every comment and social media ‘like’ that the MP makes.
In March Rosie ‘liked’ a tweet that was responding to a post from Eddie Izzard, by one of the writers of Father Ted, Graham Linehan.
The Sunday Times reported that sources close to the MP viewed the tweet as being weaponised against her because of her views on gender and spoke of a “cynical calculation” having been made that complaints about antisemitism are more likely to prompt action than complaints about transgender issues.
Is deselection on the cards?
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a strong independent-minded woman is being hounded out of the Labour Party. There has been support for her position from the political press with headlines such as The Spectator’s “Rosie Duffield’s opponents are intent on destroying her”, “The shameful smearing of Rosie Duffield” in Spiked and “Labour MP Rosie Duffield faces ‘grotesque’ party antisemitism probe and could be blocked from standing at the next election over support for trans-sceptic’s Eddie Izzard tweet” in the Mail.
If a sitting MP from the Labour Party is not on the approved candidate list, it typically means that they have not been selected or endorsed by the party leadership to stand as a candidate in the upcoming election. This means she may not be able to run as the official Labour Party candidate in the next election.
We have approached Ms Duffield’s office for their views on what happens next but have not had a response.
Unless the party manages to resolve this issue soon, the outcome of this could be that Canterbury and Whitstable could lose an MP who has been noted as a strong, hard-working constituency member who is ready to stand up for her principles.
Please note: Views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bylines Network.