Published: 14:00, 15 September 2017
Canterbury and Whitstable’s first Labour MP has stopped using a popular local social media site after admitting she has been the target of abuse and threats – an issue she raised in her maiden speech at Parliament.
Rosie Duffield told the House of Commons that she had suffered “vile, vitriolic insults” from political opponents and “unpleasant personal messages late at night” following her shock general election victory on June 8.
The 46-year-old single mother called for an end to name-calling and abuse in political debate – especially against female parliamentarians – known as “trolling”.
This week she revealed she no longer uses the Canterbury Residents Group, a forum on Facebook which boasts 18,000 members who are largely free to discuss whatever they like.
“I’ve just stopped looking at it,” she said.
“There’s so much negativity on there and I’ve been targeted by Lib Dem and Tory trolls. There’s little point in engaging with people like that.
“So many women in parliament have been trolled and it’s just so unnecessary.”
At the start of her first speech to the Commons, Ms Duffield confessed her shock at becoming the first Labour and first woman to represent Canterbury and Whitstable before launching into a broadside against online abuse.
She told MPs: “I’ve already experienced a fair amount of trolling.
"It's entirely possible to engage in political debate without resorting to death threats and abusive language"- Rosie Duffield
"This ranges from ill-informed badly researched articles published as fact to unpleasant personal messages late at night and vile vitriolic insults from a handful of activists from other parties posted online.
“It is entirely possible to engage in passionate political debate without resorting to name-calling, death threats and abusive language.
“Let’s restore respect and manners to our online behaviour.”
Ms Duffield’s opening remarks on trolling were met with “hear, hear” from those seated around her on the Labour benches.
But after the speech she accepted she had been overcome by nerves as she rose to her feet.
“I was totally terrified,” she said.
“My knees were shaking, they were actually knocking together. It got a bit better after the first few minutes.”
As the speech went on, Ms Duffield went on the offensive over the dominant political issue of the day – the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
She attacked the Conservative government for treating withdrawal negotiations with EU officials as if it is playing the Noel Edmonds game show Deal or No Deal.
“We must come out with a deal that doesn’t send us back into the economic dark ages,” she said.
“The Kent economy has benefited from immigration and tourism from across the Channel.
"If there must be a Brexit I only want the sort of Brexit that protects the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK.”
Ms Duffield also spoke about her fight for the NHS, which she described as “our nation’s sickest patient”.
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