One of the most shocking images from the Corbyn years of the Labour party was Luciana Berger flanked by police officers at Labour conference. Here was a Labour MP who had been subjected to so much hostility and outright racism from cesspit leftists that she felt unsafe at her own annual party gathering. That a Jewish woman was made to feel so unwelcome, so threatened, was a black mark against the Corbynista left.
I would never have guessed that Keir Starmer, the anti-Corbyn, the man who said he would rescue Labour from its nutty wing and restore its respectability, would have a similarly shameful moment. And yet he has.
At this year’s conference, which starts on Saturday, one Labour MP will be absent. She won’t be attending because she has experienced a tsunami of hatred from sections of the party membership. It’s Starmer’s Luciana moment — another Labour leader who has failed to make his party safe for a woman who has fallen foul of the woke mob.
This is the story of Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, who has announced that she won’t be attending Labour conference. The reason? Because, she says, ‘LGBT+ Labour now seem to hate my guts and I feared they’d have a massive go at me at conference’. What is most shocking is that all that Ms Duffield has done to attract such opprobrium is to state biological facts. Her thoughtcrime, she says, is ‘knowing that only women have a cervix’.
She isn’t exaggerating. Duffield originally became embroiled in the ‘transgender controversy’, as the media referred to it, in August 2020 when she liked a tweet pointing out that people with cervixes are called women. In response to a CNN tweet that said, ‘Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65, with HPV testing every five years’, Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘Do you mean women?’ Duffield liked Morgan’s tweet and all hell broke loose.
The insults and abuse and accusations of ‘transphobia’ came thick and fast. ‘I’m a transphobe for knowing only women have a cervix…?!’, Duffield tweeted in exasperation, and of course the response from the identitarian set was a resounding ‘YES’.
As we know, it’s ‘phobic’ these days to state biological facts, to say people with cervixes are female and people with penises are male. You can be No Platformed from university campuses and subjected to death threats and rape threats (just ask JK Rowling) for expressing truths most of us learned in biology class.
Duffield has expressed other gender-critical views. In essence, she is a feminist who thinks there is a difference between men and women — shocking, I know — and who believes biological males should not be granted access to women-only spaces.
To most of us, this doesn’t sound hateful or phobic at all. It sounds like common sense. Yet in the eyes of the increasingly intolerant trans lobby (not ordinary trans people), it is a despicable blasphemy to talk about sexual differences and to say women’s spaces should be reserved for people who were born female.
Duffield, like so many other women who have raised objections about the excesses of the transgender movement, has been abused, demonised and harassed. On occasion she has had to lock her Twitter account, so ceaseless have the insults been. There have been attempts to have her thrown out of the Labour party.
The old McCarthyism sought to hound people out of public life for subscribing to allegedly dangerous radical ideas. The new woke McCarthyism hunts down people whose only offence is to understand that if you have a cervix you are female.
There is unquestionably a misogynistic streak to the rage against women who question the idea that it’s possible to change sex. These women — Duffield, Rowling, Kathleen Stock, Helen Joyce, Julie Bindel, Posie Parker, Venice Allan, Lucy Masoud, and many others — have made clear, sensible criticisms of the trans lobby and have brilliantly articulated the case for protecting women’s sex-based rights. And for doing so they are constantly, sometimes disgustingly maligned. They’re branded hags and phobes; they’re written off as TERFs (which, strictly speaking, means ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, but is now basically used as a stand-in for ‘witch’); they’re threatened, No Platformed. All that the woke set needs now is a ducking stool and they can really get to work.
And now we end up in a situation where a Labour MP feels she cannot attend her party conference because she once said only women have cervixes. It’s madness. And it’s a very serious problem for Starmer. So far he has said nothing about the persecution of Rosie Duffield. What moral cowardice. A party leader who fails to stand up for one of his own MPs against the barbs and threats of intolerant mobs really should ask himself why he’s in the job.
The loudest thing in British politics right now is the deafening silence of Keir Starmer in relation to the Rosie Duffield controversy. If Starmer and his team are serious about repairing Labour, and about winning back the support of decent working-class voters, then they should start by unconditionally backing Duffield and denouncing her sexist, censorious haters. That would send a clear message to the cranks that they aren’t welcome in Labour, and it would let the fair, reasoned working class know that, finally, Labour might be recovering its sanity.