Published: 20:37, 18 September 2021
| Updated: 20:39, 18 September 2021
A female Kent MP's decision to pull out of her party conference due to online threats has led to the Speaker of the House of Commons making an unprecedented intervention over the security of politicians.
Canterbury and Whitstable Labour MP Rosie Duffield has said she will miss the conference, which starts in Brighton on Saturday, after posts from militant transgender activists, according to The Times.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said elected representatives should be able to appear publicly “without fear of harm” after Ms Duffield revealed she had decided to stay away on advice that her safety and security could be at risk if she chose to attend.
She claims she has been branded transphobic for “knowing that only women have a cervix”. She has also pointed out that it might not be appropriate for people with male bodies who identify as women to enter female-only spaces such as lavatories and changing rooms.
Last week she responded to Canterbury City Council on Twitter after the council leader Ben Fitter-Harding also commented on her liking transphobic tweets.
The Times reported that Sir Lindsay spoke out during a conference of heads of parliament from the G7 nations being held in Lancashire meeting to discuss the increasingly disturbing threat posed to democratically elected politicians.
It is thought the speakers at the conference will sign a pledge to try to ensure the safety of elected politicians and crack down on social media platforms to prevent trolling.
He said: “Parliamentarians, who have been elected to speak up for their constituents, should be able to attend their own party conference without fear of harm.
“Too many people have been targeted for their opinion or the office they hold. In order to protect democracy, we need to ensure those participating can do so without threats of intimidation.”
Ms Duffield, who chairs the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, reportedly said of her decision not to attend: “I mainly took the decision not because I really thought I was going to be attacked, but because I did not want to be the centre of attention.
“We have had Labour MPs who have had to have security at conference over the past few years, and I didn’t want that sort of attention or to become the story. I just thought it was better for everyone if I quietly stayed away.”
She added: “The more abuse you get, the more nervous you are. I find myself doing live television or speaking events and really carefully reframing what I want to say. That can make me quite angry, because it means I am not being myself, so it does really affect you.”
She added: “There have still only been 500 women who have been through the doors of the House of Commons, compared with 5,000 men, and we are supposed to cover all the women’s issues and if we don’t then we are not doing our job. Thousands of women have contacted me who feel as concerned as I do, although we may not agree on everything. I am just sorry the debate has got so toxic.”
MP Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said of the decision: “I am supportive of any woman who feels they face a security threat.”
In October last year Ms Duffield spoke out about being 'completely terrified' over online threats to her.