On Sunday 30th January, Twitter followers of Rosie Duffield saw a series of tweets appear on the Canterbury MP’s page as follows:-
Beyond describing what had been “published” that morning as “personal”, “libellous”, “fictional”, “crap”, Duffield offered no specific details though she did choose to conflate the offending piece with other “rubbish” which she claimed she had been “subjected to” for several years – all of which was lumped together under the general label of “obsessive harassment”.
In actual fact, what had been published that day was a blog article for this same platform, Whitstable Views, a online resource run by the Whitstable-based author and columnist, Chris Stone, in the interests of “citizen journalism”.
Whitstable Views is widely read in Duffield’s Canterbury constituency – particularly among Whitstable’s 30,000 residents—and Labour Hub recently invited Chris Stone to write about the increasing popularity of the platform in an article which follows directly here:-
For the first time, Whitstable Views had been asked to publish a blog article anonymously after its text had been submitted by a respected figure: “a long-standing Kent Labour Party member who has actively campaigned for the Labour Party in numerous local and national elections over many years.”
Notably, the piece entitled Why Canterbury and Whitstable Needs a New Labour MP was written:-
a) not by a “left-winger” or a “Corbynite” (as Duffield has since wrongly and repeatedly claimed)
b) not by a member of Canterbury constituency or its CLP (as Duffield wrongly asserted on social media and in interviews)
c) not by me (though Duffield implied as much when she added the following comment to a Facebook post: “Clue. You won’t need to enlist the help of Miss Marple”.
Duffield knows quite well that I am a TV writer and crime author.
My MP should also know that I am not a member of the Labour Party whereas it was made quite clear in a conspicuous note on Whitstable Views that the author of the blog had requested anonymity in order to “escape suspension or expulsion from the party” – a request which Whitstable Views felt was reasonable in light of the suspensions and expulsions of thousands of party members under Keir Starmer’s leadership and particularly following the experience of 85-year old Anne Belworthy, a Herne Bay Labour Party member and critic of Duffield, recently expelled after 65 years of loyal membership and activism.
Duffield’s tweets were soon picked up by a news-hungry weekend press, all focusing attention (as may well have been intended) on a dramatic final line about the MP considering her future with Labour.
The local Kent Messenger newspaper group promptly served up the following headline to its readers just after 2pm in an online news piece:-
Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield ‘carefully considering future in Labour Party amid ‘obsessive harassment’
This story reported the contents of Duffield’s tweets but also reflected the MP’s thinking with mention of “nasty and personal statements in an online article” as well as “harassment” from “left-wingers”. Again, it is worth repeating that the author of the blog piece was not a “left-winger”, nor a constituent of Duffield’s, but these early comments from my MP laid a muddled path for other journalists to follow.
The local newspaper also included a photograph of Keir Starmer, perhaps to highlight Duffield’s assertion that the new Labour leader was little better than Jeremy Corbyn with regard to the following: “former leader Jeremy Corbyn and current Labour boss Keir Starmer, along with the party whips, have not “done anything at all to stop” the alleged abuse or support her through the experience” and “the Labour Party had “failed to offer her any legal assistance, as she is ‘financially unable to pursue a libel action.’”
It seems perhaps a fascinating example of hubris that Duffield might possibly expect that the Labour Party, in its current strained financial position (after the desertion and expulsion of so many of its members) could spare party funds, time and effort to pursue a libel case against a Kent party member who was trying to raise valid concerns within a blog piece?
Perhaps it also indicates a lack of awareness from Duffield of Keir Starmer’s considerable legal experience or the fact that on Sunday 30th January the Labour leader might actually have been more concerned with trying to prepare a bombshell parliamentary speech on the findings of Sue Gray’s report which were to be revealed the following day. Interestingly, when the Whitstable Views blog article was submitted for advice as to whether it could be considered “libellous”, the view received was to the contrary but also suggested that Duffield’s own description of it as such could itself be argued as “libellous.”
National newspapers soon followed Kent Messenger. This Guardian article was one. Its headline proved to be somewhat premature…
Rosie Duffield expected to make decision on Labour future imminently
Jessica Elgot’s piece laid fresh focus on Duffield’s “record of expressing gender-critical views” – views which had led to the Canterbury MP having gained a reputation as a “transphobe” after comments and endorsements of controversial tweets had offended members of the trans community as well as prompting members of Duffield’s own staff to quit working for her.
In October 2020, GMB Union members unanimously passed the following motion to condemn Duffield’s actions, with a reference to one of those members of staff having been “publicly outed” by the MP, despite the staff member wanting to remain anonymous. In the context of Duffield’s own claims of “abuse” it’s significant that the union expressed its belief that Duffield “abused her position as MP” and “left the member vulnerable to online abuse and fearful for her own safety”.
Canterbury constituent, Frankie Green, speaks for many of the LGBTQ+ community when she writes:-
“Sadly, Ms Duffield doesn’t appear to understand the need for Members of Parliament to respect the rights and represent the interests of all constituents, and to educate themselves about the crucial issues facing our society – or that this role differs profoundly from the position of a private individual given to thoughtlessly expressing (uninformed) opinions. Her statements regarding trans people show no comprehension of the realities of trans life, and constitute one example of behaviour which has left local Labour Party members and others disaffected and disillusioned, such as giving support to the pro-Israeli lobby, undermining the elected leader of the party at the time of her election, rebuffing any justified critical feedback and generally failing to live up to the required level of engagement and accountability we would hope for from a serious parliamentary representative.”
In spite of what Green writes about the “realities of trans life”, Duffield sadly appears committed to maintaining blinkered victim status on issues affecting trans people, and in a recent podcast referred to potential “aggression” and “trouble” as the reasons she failed to attend the Labour Party Conference last year, though in fact she turned up regardless and went on to address a fringe meeting which only served to steal further press attention away from Keir Starmer during his first conference as Labour leader.
Fear and paranoia
Following the Guardian report and others, and due to the inherent lack of detail in Duffield’s tweets, it was no surprise when the MP’s Twitter followers mistakenly assumed that fresh claims of “obsessive harassment and abuse” related to offences by members of the trans community. Outraged followers of Duffield tweeted not only messages of support—but also fear – exampled by the following:-
“Got sent this by message by a friend on here (female) who said she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving a comment of support on Rosie Duffield’s tweet cause people will pile on. What on earth has the world come to when women can’t comment on topics affecting women cause of pile ons?!”
It would be reasonable to conclude that by omitting from her tweets any clear details of the Whitstable Views article which had clearly so outraged her, Duffield had contributed to an atmosphere of paranoia amongst her followers who then felt themselves to be at risk from the same kind of “abuse” and “harassment” the MP claimed she was being subjected to.
It wasn’t until late afternoon that Duffield chose to clarify that the “abuse” she had referred to – now described as “fictional and factional bile” – was in no way related to her stance on “women’s rights.”
In the circumstances and with levels of fear clearly evident on social media, this was a sensible move. Had Labour advised Duffield to issue clarification in an attempt to avoid losing more support from the LGBTQ+ community? It’s notable that Duffield was now calling not on Starmer but on the Labour Party in “Kent” to come to her aid.
The question remains – was it abuse she had been “subjected to”?
Abuse or scrutiny?
Far from inflicting any “pile on” or “harassment”, the Kent Labour Party member who had authored the blog had simply conveyed troubling information within it from “reliable and trusted sources” about a Labour Party All Members Meeting (AMM) on Thursday 27th January at which, it was claimed, questions had been raised about whether Duffield was no longer living permanently in her constituency but had followed her partner, TV director James Routh, to North Wales where he had been working. It is important to note that it was well known within the constituency that Routh and Duffield had shared a home in Whitstable because that information had been placed in the public domain by Duffield herself in various social media posts…
James Routh had also shared social media posts indicating that he was working in Wrexham.
The Kent Labour Party member went on to explain that local residents were aware that the Whitstable property Duffield and Routh shared had been vacated last summer and the blog author then raised concerns that: “in recent months the Canterbury MP seldom appeared to visit her constituency”, “shows poor attendance at local Party meetings, street stalls and campaign events” and that “constituents have reported numerous instances of her failure to respond to their letters and e-mails.”
As a Canterbury constituent, I can personally vouch for the lack of response from Duffield to constituents. Sadly, I have been aware of my MP’s failings on this issue since 2017 when I wrote to Duffield, copying in a number of local Labour Party figures about complaints that had come in to me from local people who were aware that I, as a paid up “supporter” of Jeremy Corbyn at that time, had strongly campaigned that year for a Labour victory in Canterbury. It was therefore entirely reasonable for local people to feel I should take some responsibility for the lack of response to their correspondence from their new MP. It was also made clear to me that I should be aware of this situation as I had personally endorsed Duffield as Canterbury’s Labour candidate.
On behalf of those residents I wrote several times to Duffield, copying in the influential party members, making known the clear lack of efficiency in this matter as well as my own frustration and shame that residents should have been given cause to lose faith so quickly in their new MP. What follows is an extract from an email in which I was advocating on behalf of a young man who had just left foster care; a local woman who had sadly lost her father; a disabled man unable to use a charging point for his electric vehicle and someone within the community who needed help with a time sensitive issue regarding Whitstable’s Oyster Festival.
“I’ve mentioned before how galling it was for me to hear constantly that in spite of his party’s policies, (former Tory MP) Julian Brazier was that thing: “a good constituency MP”. You cannot believe how galling and frustrating it is for me to now hear from people on a regular basis that “at least you got a reply from him.”
No-one expects Rosie to be able to solve every case, but the very least constituents deserve is a timely and appropriate reply to their correspondence. Is that really too much to ask?
Rosie’s website states:-
“Whatever your query I promise you a friendly welcome and a quick reply from myself and my staff.”
Do you really consider a “quick reply” to be 4 months? If not, why was no apology given to XXXXX XXXXX on that four month old response?
I’ve pointed out (twice) that even the automatic message to acknowledge constituents’ emails (on the firstname.lastname@example.org address) hasn’t been functioning but no–one was aware of that because clearly no-one thought to put a system in place whereby someone in the office tests that system once or twice a week.
So, how many other constituents have received no reply whatsoever from an MP that’s been in place since June? I don’t know – and I don’t even want to find out by conducting a straw poll (!) because there are already too many instances from those who happened to have mentioned the lack of response to me in conversation…
I’m fully aware that Labour and Rosie did not expect to win this election and so were caught unprepared. I know that staff have to be vetted before they can begin in their posts but Rosie and members of salaried staff have been in place for long enough to expect far better than this.
Most people know that good office administration is down to prioritisation, application, experience and plain honest hard work. If there was a huge backlog of correspondence, blitz it – treat this as the vocation it is and stay beyond office working hours and deal with it – but get the job done – and if those in charge can’t do that – get someone else in. If you can’t get appropriate numbers of staff, shouldn’t there be someone in parliament to help?
I’ve always told everyone I campaign with that the “winning” isn’t difficult – the real challenge is knowing how to deal with the victory. Let’s hope there is another victory next time but, at this rate, I don’t hold out much hope.
On a brighter note, (for you anyway), I shan’t be writing again as I won’t be recommending anyone at all to contact their new MP for help. I hope you can see from all that I’ve written that the result is far too disappointing for me – but more importantly – for the constituent.”
The anonymous author of the Whitstable Views blog piece also stated that Duffield “has a history of blocking from her social media platforms the constituents who dare to hold her to account.”
This is also true as I am one of many who have been blocked by my own MP. I catalogued Duffield’s poor performance as a constituency MP in an article I wrote in June 2020—Rosie Duffield’s Brand Collapses – after she breached national lockdown restrictions to meet Routh.
And earlier, in 2019, I had written another piece which questioned Duffield’s part in the anti-Semitism slurs against Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Williamson and others and I quoted a local party member’s concerns that Duffield had been “imposed” upon the constituency at the eleventh hour—and without a vote from local members—replacing the previous parliamentary candidate Hugh Lanning; a former trade union official and the former chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
After winning the seat in 2017, Duffield referred to Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies, Luciana Berger and Margaret Hodge, as her “friends” and consistently discredited the Labour leader and his supporters by contributing to the slurs of anti-Semitism. In July 2019, Ben Hickman, Chairman of Canterbury CLP, reported to the press that Duffield had “angered” the “overwhelming majority” of local members with “incredibly reckless” comments on the subject of Labour being “institutionally anti-Semitic”.
Later that year, Kent Labour members, including the former Chair of North Thanet CLP, John Gibson, and Ian Venables who was the CLP Chair at the time of the 2019 general election, were outraged by the appearance of a social media post for Duffield’s campaign recommending North Thanet residents to vote Lib Dem—rather than for the socialist Labour candidate, Dr Coral Jones. The post remained in place throughout the campaign and clearly shows Duffield tagged into it. Any idea that this was a recommendation for a tactical anti-Brexit vote was wholly discredited because Labour has a long record of being the second party in North Thanet (after the Tories) and Dr Coral Jones was a pro-Remain candidate.
To this day, North Thanet residents, including Gibson and Venables, remain appalled that Duffield failed to show due support and solidarity for a good prospective Kent Labour MP like Dr Coral Jones.
Similarly, straight after the election, Ben Hickman (who was still Chair of Canterbury CLP at that time) criticised Duffield’s conduct throughout the election period in comments he gave to the Kent Messenger press, including the following: “Our candidate repeatedly called for votes against Labour candidates. In one instance, a week before polling day, we heard from Rosie that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘unfit to be Prime Minister’ and that Labour candidates should only be supported ‘in exceptional circumstances’.” Hickman explained that the local party had refrained from making comment about the MP’s statements at the time “to allow us the best chance of winning locally…but clearly they need to be addressed”.
To this day, after countless party members have been suspended or expelled for far less, it seems astonishing that Duffield could have escaped scrutiny from the Labour Party itself for such conduct?
In my 2020 piece I wrote about what I felt to be the fake branding of Duffield who had been presented to the electorate as a hard working single mum struggling on alone on tax credits. It became clear that, unlike most of her constituents, Duffield had had little work experience and, by her own admission to a journalist is unpunctual. “I’ve probably been fired more times than anyone else I know. I mean timekeeping was always a huge issue with me, it’s probably the number one issue.”
It was widely known among party members that Duffield had suffered disciplinary action during her brief time as a Teaching Assistant, and she had also freely admitted to me in an email that 18,000 unanswered constituents’ emails were stacked up in her constituency inbox. All this contributed to a growing impression, for me and others, that Rosie Duffield was probably ill-equipped for the responsible role of a constituency MP.
On the anti-Semitism issue, Duffield went on to campaign with her friends in Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) but without giving equal attention to the concerns of Jewish Corbyn-supporting Labour Party members—for example, those in Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL).
To this day she remains unforgiven by a local Jewish mother, Malissa Taylor-Saks, who last year tweeted a question to the prospective Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Lola Oyewusi, following her experience of having contacted Duffield for help after her 12-year old child had been the victim of anti-Semitic abuse:-
To which Ms Taylor-Saks replied:-
Ms Taylor-Saks wrote to a trusted Labour Party figure as follows:-
“… I cannot hand out fliers/letters for someone who has never said thank you and who most importantly, never came back to me after my child was the victim of antisemitic abuse though she promised me that she would. I am guessing my child’s case wasn’t newsworthy enough. I am writing this with tears streaming from my face. It’s so sad how our party has this in it. I know every party does, but I expected something better from ours.
If you would like to see Rosie’s response to me, it’s on Twitter. I just can’t believe it.
I’m sorry that I’ve had to write this, but I’m finished with Rosie now.
The bitter disappointment expressed by Ms Taylor-Saks mirrors that of so many constituents who campaigned hard to win a Labour victory in Canterbury in 2017 after the substantial gains that had been made by the former candidate, Hugh Lanning, and the strong local support which was enjoyed locally by Jeremy Corbyn as leader – and by Duffield as Corbyn’s representative – factors which our MP chooses to ignore when she continues to claim the seat was “unwinnable”. It clearly wasn’t “unwinnable” because it was won—and on both occasions during Corbyn’s party leadership.
It’s important to note that while Duffield was re-elected in 2019, in a tactical anti-Brexit move the local Green Party had agreed not to stand a candidate and the strong Lib Dem candidate, Tim Walker, withdrew for the same reason so as not to split the Remain vote.
However, pertinently at this current time, and as reported in the anonymous Whitstable Views blog piece, a recent local council by-election in Whitstable was lost by Labour – even with local canvassing by Duffield – after suspicions concerning the suspension of a popular Labour candidate whose views had clashed with Duffield over the issue of trans rights. The result of the by-election was a Labour defeat in my own ward and an historic win for the local Green Party. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, Duffield failed to reply to a letter I had sent to her raising important questions about whether there had been political interference in that by-election:
Neither Starmer nor David Evans (General Secretary of the Labour Party) chose to offer a reply either – though they were both copied in to the same letter.
Low commitment—high expenses
Under the paragraph title, Lack of Commitment, the Kent Labour blog author wrote:
“It is fair to say that Ms Duffield has also demonstrated a distinct lack of commitment to the Westminster part of her role. She is rarely seen on the floor of the house. The House of Commons website records that she has only tabled two Early Day motions in more than 4.5 years and that her attendance at the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Select Committee is only 51%. This is despite the significant local environmental issue of pollution of the sea in her constituency and that significant parts of her constituency are rural ones and part of the agricultural economy.”
Duffield’s expenses, which are the second highest in Kent, were also mentioned in the blog piece along with the fact that the MP had failed to respond to enquiries from the local press about her expense claims:-
“On April 23, Canterbury’s Ms Duffield made a single claim of £4,220.84, with the expense described as for “computer, laptop, PC, tablet & accessories”. Ms Duffield’s team also did not respond when asked if this was for home working and how many employees the equipment was for.”
Finally, the blog article asserted that the constituency needs “an MP who lives in the area and who therefore remains connected to local people and issues” – especially since Canterbury and Whitstable is the only constituency in Kent with a Labour MP.
It then closed with an important reminder that although Duffield has put herself forward once again as parliamentary candidate, Labour members in Canterbury and Whitstable along with other affiliated bodies such as local trade unions would have the chance to decide on the candidacy via a trigger ballot – which would allow them to replace Duffield with “someone who will work hard in this important role and who is prepared to give proper care and attention to local constituents and the area” – something the author suggested would surely prove difficult if Duffield was based over 200 miles away.
That final reminder to local Labour Party members of the possibility to vote for another candidate for the next general election appeared to many local members to be the most important point of the whole piece. However, Duffield’s non-specific tweets had clouded the issue, so this point was not properly referred to until an updated story appeared in the local Kent Messenger print newspaper, the Gazette, almost a week later on 3rd February. This update made clear that Duffield would automatically be reselected to contest the seat only if she received more than 50% of the vote.
A “permanent residence”?
The updated Kent Messenger story was also interesting for its inclusion of the fact that Duffield “claims almost £2,400 per month in expenses for rent on a London apartment” although the paper admitted it “does not know” where Duffield “considers her permanent residence” and the MP “had declined to answer this question.” Why? Surely with the fallout from the MP’s tweets and the negative publicity for Labour following on from all the comments to the press, it was incumbent on Duffield, as MP, to patently deny or admit any alleged move and make clear to her constituents where she now lives. Canterbury? London? North Wales? Was it really that difficult?
On the evening of Sunday 30th January, an “update” was sent out to local Labour members on official Labour Party notepaper with the name “Rosie” attached. A lawyerly response, it managed to sidestep the main question of where Rosie Duffield’s permanent home was situated. Reproduced in full here, it gave only an overall impression to local members but at no point does it categorically state that the MP permanently resides in the constituency.
It has come to my attention that there are rumours circulating around the CLP – that were raised in an official CLP meeting – that I have moved to live in another part of the UK and am no longer living or working in my own constituency.
In the almost five years since I was first elected, I have heard and read many ridiculous, amusing, disturbing and libellous things which have absolutely no relationship with the truth. Sadly this seems to go with the territory of being a Member of Parliament.
I am disappointed that I even have to write this email to you.
Although several MPs do not base their family or have a home in their constituencies, this is not the case for me.
I first moved to Canterbury in 1998 and have worked, lived and had my family home here throughout that 24 year period – almost half of my lifetime.
As those of you who know me personally will be aware, I remain the MP in and for Canterbury, my family home is here, with my office and great staff team based in Whitstable.
Thank you to all those who have been in touch to offer support and to all those friends in the party that continue to work hard for a Keir Starmer-led Labour government.
Yours, as ever,
As to this Facebook statement from Duffield: “I am seen by mum every weekend”, Skwawkbox reported the responses from residents that came in to my own social media pages asking: “On Zoom?!”
Skwawkbox also reminded its readers that crying “abuse” or “bullying” in the face of valid scrutiny is a well-used tactic used by centrist Labour MPs.
“In March 2018, when Skwawkbox sent a standard press enquiry to a number of right-wing Labour MPs about their records fighting racism, no response was received. Instead, the MPs ran to their tame stenographers in the press with an ‘open letter’ claiming some simple questions by email about their record constituted ‘bullying’.“
Duffield has made numerous allegations of having been subjected to “abuse”, “harassment” and “bullying” when she has found herself under scrutiny for supporting anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn or having endorsed comments that trans people are “mostly cosplaying heterosexuals” or even when simply faced with valid questions in a blog piece from a Labour member. Writer, Mark Montegriffo, describes the term “cry bullying” as the way in which someone might depict themself as a “victim” even if the evidence “suggests the opposite”, and in an article in Jacobin magazine Montegriffo went on to cite his own examples of Duffield having done so.
Since the Whitstable Views piece appeared, Duffield has complained to a host of journalists about her vulnerability in the face of “harassment” – as well as the lack of support she’s received from Keir Starmer and the Labour Party. She also appears to have chosen the right wing press for her preferred platform; journalists who no doubt relish the opportunity to accuse Starmer of failing to protect the sole Labour MP in Kent.
On 5th February in the Sunday Mail, Dan Hodges was happy to repeat Duffield’s allegations of bullying even though he himself had been responsible for a piece topped with a reprehensible headline calling for Labour to “kill vampire Jezza” with an accompanying graphic showing Jeremy Corbyn in a coffin.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph, whose news story strapline went: ‘Canterbury MP, who has received abuse over her views on trans rights, says she is considering her ‘future in the party very carefully’, indulged Duffield even further last weekend, with a 20 minute podcast on Chopper’s Politics, featuring an interview with the paper’s associate editor, Christopher Hope, in which Duffield asserted several times that the recent “abuse” she had experienced was from what she described as a “tiny faction” of “her own membership” – a “tiny group of very toxic people.” She also confided to Hope that although “Keir” had “phoned”, it was clear “he didn’t know what to do”. It may well be that Keir Starmer knows exactly what to do and has decided to lie low and try to ignore my MP, who, throughout “Chopper’s” interview sounded increasingly to me like an aggrieved Princess Diana complaining to the nation about her unhappy royal marriage.
The idea promoted by Duffield of a Labour MP struggling under a weight of “toxic abuse”, administered in an anonymous blog piece, is inaccurate and therefore makes a mockery of Labour colleagues like Emily Thornberry and Yvette Cooper who recently found themselves being quizzed by BBC reporters about Starmer’s failure to protect this “vulnerable” MP.
The Whitstable Views piece may have outraged Duffield, but is it really an “outrage” for an MP to be confronted by concerns that they may no longer be living in their own constituency? London? Canterbury? North Wales? A direct and unequivocal answer might surely have satisfied the blog author, but the ensuing fallout from Rosie Duffield’s tweets and the dramatic final line implying a possible resignation or defection, as well as the numerous and ongoing interviews with the press, all beg the question of whether Duffield has ever properly understood that her job is that of a public servant and so the public has a right, if not a duty, to hold an MP to account—not least because it’s the public purse that pays an MP’s salary and expenses.
Since 30th January, the steady stream of press comments and interviews from Duffield appears to indicate that she expects her party to be able to stamp out any instances of scrutiny as swiftly and effectively as she does by blocking criticism on her own social media accounts. Duffield’s frustrations, however, also seem to relate to her own her lack of progress within the party, as duly noted by The Spectator in a piece recounting her “woes”; how, on the very day of Starmer’s parliamentary speech on the Sue Gray report: “Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was overheard earlier in the chamber, loudly complaining about her lack of Labour front bench opportunities. Sir Keir Starmer, according to Duffield, is apparently more receptive to putting ‘Trots’ in his team, rather than those like the honourable member for Canterbury.”
In fact, on her election Jeremy Corbyn had appointed Duffield as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Dawn Butler, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities – a position she chose to quit only a year later. In April 2020, Starmer then made Duffield a Labour whip, a role she resigned from after only a month, when she was ‘outed’ by the Daily Mail for breaching lockdown regulations to meet her partner, Routh. Importantly, it was this incident and the resulting press stories that were responsible for bringing the couple’s relationship to national attention – not members’ obsessive interest in Duffield’s “personal life”.
Furthermore, as Skwawkbox reported, the reason anyone was likely to be aware that Duffield and Routh might be based, even temporarily, in a “house she bought in a small village” is because Dan Hodges reported this in his Sunday Mail article. There is no sinister mystery as to why the public should know so much about Duffield’s “personal life” beyond that which emanates from the couple’s social media posts and Duffield’s own disclosures to the press. Significantly, even as I write this piece I note the editor of Kent Messenger’s Gazette newspaper, Joe Walker, has felt the need to tweet a robust defence against Duffield complaining that his paper has “dedicated a lot of column inches to my private life…”
“So, Rosie Duffield tells us numerous times that she’s not available for interview with the Kentish Gazette, the paper of record in her constituency, but finds time to sit down with the Telegraph for a podcast. Entirely unsurprising. She also uses it to claim ‘my local paper has dedicated quite a lot of column inches to my private life – who I’m dating’. A quick search throws up three stories. One in 2017, about her recent engagement, which she was so determined to keep private she tweeted about it. In 2019, there was a story on her dating celebrity presenter Adrian Chiles – a day after it was reported in the national press. And in 2020, we told how she admitted being a ‘hypocrite’ for breaching lockdown rules with her current partner. We’re practically Hello! magazine. Of course, we’d love to bring you more on Rosie’s work in the constituency, but for some unknown reason, she appears to not want to speak with us. Perhaps if we moved our offices to London we’d have more luck.”
Done her bit for history
Is it possible Duffield feels that by courting right wing journalists and dangling the prospect of defection Keir Starmer might be pressured into giving her more responsibility? If so, this is surely politics for toddlers? After listening to the Telegraph’s “Chopper’s Politics” podcast, the former Labour member and Chair of North Thanet CLP, John Gibson, wrote “There was sadly little of substance from Duffield who played her innocent little girl mode, in effect complaining “but I didn’t know MPs could expect to be scrutinised.”
And of the alleged move to North Wales? A week after the offending blog article appeared, news suddenly emerged that Rosie Duffield had in fact bought a “holiday home” with Routh. Why was this not mentioned at the outset, or in the party “update” to local Labour Party members, instead of vague comments about a “family home” in Canterbury which, as members commented on social media at the time, might equally refer to a parental home where she was said to have been registered to vote?
John Gibson went on: “One imagines she (Duffield) thinks that the £80,000 salary and nearly a quarter of million a year in expenses is simply pocket money requiring no chores to be done in return or answers given. What is also evident, is that on policy Ms Duffield at best could be described as an out-rider; a more critical opinion is that her views might be better suited to the common room of naive 6th formers in a girls’ public school from the late 1950’s. What remains disappointing about Duffield is her constant carping against local activists, many of whom were instrumental in getting her elected in the first place, back in 2017.”
It’s sad if Rosie Duffield feels unable to accept the part played by hard working activists in winning the Canterbury seat in 2017 or the strong local support for Corbyn that ensured a Kent Labour victory. Instead, it seems she prefers to take sole credit for her position and commented as much to Jess Phillips MP when she tweeted: “I feel I have done my bit for history…”
Distraction or defection?
Is Duffield seriously considering defecting to the Tories? It’s true that Canterbury remained a Tory seat until Corbyn became Labour leader, so the seat might well be lost to Labour without Corbyn in place. Should Canterbury voters return to a default position of a Conservative vote then Duffield could cling on to her MP’s role, salary and expenses if she crossed the floor to the party that offered her a warm welcome last October – the Tories. It seems there is a current love affair between the right wing press and Duffield, and only this week she enjoyed an online Valentine’s Day ‘date’ with the South Thanet Conservative MP, Craig Mackinlay (a former leader of UKIP) courtesy of Times Radio whose headline proudly stated:-
“Labour MP threatens to defect to the Tories”:-
Dulce et decorum – not least because many in Canterbury and elsewhere have questioned what such a right-winger as Duffield was ever doing in the Labour Party in the first place. But with Johnson currently so beleaguered, it seems odd that the Conservative Party might want to risk taking on a controversial figure like Duffield. As her press comments are doing well at targeting Starmer, perhaps the Tories would do better by simply allowing her to remain in place?
One thing is certain, it’s time to challenge the false narrative of alleged “abuse” and “harassment” for what it really is – “cry bullying” – an overused, ineffective tactic to displace the very real and valid concerns of many constituents as well as those of non-party members like myself and respected centrist Labour Party members like the author of the anonymous blog piece. There is abuse within Labour but it could be argued to have been dispensed by Rosie Duffield herself to members of the trans community via offensive and insensitive comments, or to her constituents (I was once described in a tweet by Duffield as a “vile woman” but had no right to reply as my MP had already blocked me from her Twitter account). It’s also clear that two members of Duffield’s staff felt sufficiently offended by her comments and views that they had to quit their jobs – with one then experiencing security issues from Duffield’s tweets.
Sadly, blocking criticism from Duffield’s social media accounts means that her dedicated followers never get a chance to consider an alternative view within a manufactured echo chamber and by polarising opinions it remains a constant challenge to maintain a healthy and respectful discourse on sensitive issues such as those concerning trans rights.
I sincerely hope that Rosie Duffield uses this opportunity to take stock, but also take responsibility for any controversies of her making. Perhaps it might then be easier for her to comprehend her own lack of progress within the party? As one Canterbury resident wrote this week:
“She could be doing so much for people and especially women, providing a proper role model for feminism but instead she presents as someone who’s ready to go on the attack but unwilling to listen to a defence.”
Canterbury does deserve better than Rosie Duffield – but then so does Labour.
‘It’s time Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield stood up to legitimate scrutiny’:
Julie Wassmer is a TV drama writer and author. She has lived in Whitstable for over 20 years and campaigns on environmental and community issues.
NOTE TO ROSIE DUFFIELD
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