Deeds Not Words


Julie Wassmer

Why Rosie Duffield MP should take a lesson from the Suffragettes

The “Exclusive” in the Guardian featuring my Canterbury Labour MP Rosie Duffield, on Thursday 13th September, came just a day after I attended the important  demo in London, to stand alongside women who had travelled to Westminster all the way from Lancashire, in order to raise awareness not only of the dangers of fracking but of an important debate that was taking place in parliament that day.

100 Women Julie Wassmer and Paddy with Gandhi at Westminster 1
Julie Wassmer at the #100women demo in Westminster, Wednesday 12th September

As a Canterbury constituent and someone who has been fighting fracking in East Kent and elsewhere for the past 6 years, I had written to my MP asking for her to lend support to us at the debate. But I received a reply from her office on 10th September explaining: “Unfortunately Rosie is unable to attend the debate on Wednesday 12 September as she already has another event in her diary.”

I was appalled to read in the Guardian article that in spite of having “had a lot of constituents asking me to be part of it” (ie the fracking debate) Rosie Duffield didn’t feel she could attend as she “didn’t get to write a decent speech,” because she was dealing “with the media” following a motion of censure from her local party members.

Really? What a slap in the face to all those constituents who wrote to her for support on this important issue to discover she failed to attend an important debate because she was too busy putting out “exclusives” like this one? Can she not see that her job is, principally, to support constituents rather than plastering herself all over the papers?  It’s really very simple – it’s called prioritisation.

Rosie, if you had really cared about missing this debate I would have happily written your speech for you, as would any of the women who had travelled in 2 coaches all the way from Lancashire – and who have been active in fighting fracking for the sake of their families, on the front line in Lancashire and elsewhere, and  who know far more about it than you could ever hope to know.

The amazing veteran environmental capaigner Anne Power almost 87 years of age at 100 Women demo in Westminster.
The amazing veteran environmental campaigner, Anne Power, almost 87, at the #100women demo

Take a lesson from campaigner, Anne Power, who, at almost 87 years of age, sat in Parliament Square all day on Wednesday 12th to draw attention to that important debate. Take another lesson from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, who actually found time to leave parliament and come and talk to all on the demo and to assure us all that we have his support.

Please don’t use a Guardian “exclusive” to opine about a local censure motion having prevented you from doing your job. That job is to support constituents – not whine about the fact that a group of Labour Party members was so concerned about your recent conduct and press statements bringing unnecessary and unwarranted pressure on the leader of your own party, they put forward that censure motion in the first place. It’s my understanding that the motion was withdrawn almost immediately so why the great need for you to keep dealing with “the media” three days after the event? Are you using that motion to advance your own victimhood for your own purposes?

If so, it’s not working. It’s clear your actions have already alienated local party members but all you have now done with this Guardian exclusive is alienate ordinary constituents, like me, who actually worked hard to get you elected. We campaigned for you, not because you are Rosie Duffield (most constituents didn’t have a clue who you were) we did so because you were a representative of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Voters may have put a cross beside your name on the ballot paper but their vote was for Jeremy. That’s why they accepted Labour posters in their windows and their homes. How do I know that? Because they told me. Why did they tell me? Because I distributed those posters. That’s how I know.

I also know that there are many who will not lift a finger to help you fight another election in this constituency. And they will never vote for you again either. With your comments in this article, you now owe an apology to every single fracking campaigner who turned out to Westminster last Wednesday while you kept away with “another event in your diary” to brief “the media” instead.

And remember that wafer thin majority of 186 votes you keep going on about? Congratulations on making it even thinner. I’m ashamed to say we might as well have had a Tory MP here for all the good you were to us in Westminster this week. But most of all I am ashamed that my Labour MP should have given the finger to all the brave, fearless campaigners in communities in Lancashire who have Cuadrilla’s fracking rig as an uninvited neighbour.

At the #100Women demo, we wore the colours of the suffragettes. And the motto of the suffragettes was “Deeds not Words.” Maybe from now on you might try spending less time offering “words” to the media – and more time on “deeds” for others – especially those who are desperately fighting a toxic industry – and they do that for you too.

So, regrettably I say shame on you, Rosie Duffield.

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Julie Wassmer is an author and campaigner. Her crime novels are set in Whitstable, where she’s lived for 20 years. Photo by Jon Eldude


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