Published: 09:39, 20 September 2021
| Updated: 10:40, 20 September 2021
A Labour MP who is avoiding the party’s conference following abuse over her views on trans issues has requested a meeting with Sir Keir Starmer.
Rosie Duffield has faced online attacks for being “transphobic” over her opposition to “male-bodied biological men” being allowed to self-ID as female in order to access women-only spaces such as prisons and domestic violence refuges.
She said she had been subjected to some “pretty awful” abuse and did not want her presence at the party’s conference in Brighton to become a distraction.
But she called for talks with party leader Sir Keir and said there was a lack of clarity over Labour’s position on the issue.
The Canterbury MP said she decided a few weeks ago not to attend the conference, which starts on Saturday, because “I didn’t want to be the centre of attention”.
“There are groups that would be at the Labour Party conference that my presence would irritate,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It is hard to know how serious to take threats by people who post them online – I don’t always, very often, take them that seriously – but they are pretty awful and I did not want to subject myself and other people to that kind of abuse.”
Asked if it would be “helpful” to talk to Sir Keir, she said: “Yes, that would be good. Lots of women have been asking to meet with Starmer in groups or one-to-one about this issue.
“And obviously, he’s incredibly busy. But it would be good to just clarify what our position is as a party and just to discuss how we go forward with this issue.”
She said Sir Keir was “always positive about trying to organise a meeting” but it has not yet happened.
In its 2019 manifesto Labour committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people.
But the party also pledged to uphold the 2010 Equality Act so that single-sex-based exemptions – which allow for women-only spaces – “are understood and fully enforced”.
This is a cross-party issue, not just politicians but anyone who puts their head above the parapet - councillors and people in the public eye - just get abuse for the way we look and what we say and it is really horrible
Ms Duffield said she believed that was still the party’s position but “the lack of ability to discuss it means that we’re not certain”.
The MP also spoke out about the abuse aimed at females in public life.
“This is a cross-party issue, not just politicians but anyone who puts their head above the parapet – councillors and people in the public eye – just get abuse for the way we look and what we say and it is really horrible.
“It always turns to violence when it is women. Recent Government ministers have had to resign and they get lots of comedy-based abuse. It is jokey, off-the-cuff and silly.
“We always get the violence, pictures of guns, pictures of mocked-up nooses – that’s the kind of thing we get on social media and Twitter really is the worst platform. I don’t know what they can do about it but something would be good.”