Joanna Williams Joanna Williams

Justice has been served for Rosie Duffield

Credit: Spectator TV

The year has got off to a good start for Rosie Duffield. Back in November, the MP for Canterbury became the focus of an investigation by the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), following allegations of anti-Semitism and transphobia. Now she has been, in her words, ‘completely exonerated’. 

Duffield’s mistake, such as it was, had been to like a tweet by comedy writer Graham Linehan – who was himself responding to comedian-turned-parliamentary-wannabe, Eddie Izzard. Izzard has spent the past few years living in ‘girl mode’ and being referred to as ‘she’ or ‘her’. Izzard had told an interviewer: ‘If I’d been in Nazi Germany, I would have been murdered for saying that I was trans.’ ‘Ah, yes,’ Linehan remarked with fabulous understatement, ‘The Nazis, famously bigoted against straight white men with blonde hair.’ Never mind Duffield, I’d have liked this skewering of Izzard’s ego-centrism a hundred times over, were it possible.

The only person who emerges from Labour’s NEC investigation with a shred of integrity is Duffield herself

Fortunately, I’m not a Labour MP, so my social media ‘likes’ are rarely pored over. And I have no employer subjecting me to an investigation every time haters are determined to take offence. Alas, this is Duffield’s fate. So it is good news that she has now been able to reveal that this latest inquest found she had ‘no case to answer’ and had done nothing that ‘had breached any Labour party rule’. 

Duffield’s statement is a masterclass in dignity, so I hope she forgives me for getting angry on her behalf. Why on earth were such blatantly pernicious claims taken sufficiently seriously to warrant a top level, internal party investigation? If a quick scan of Linehan’s tweet wasn’t enough to make clear the groundless nature of the allegations, then surely Duffield’s political track record could have exposed the lie. 

Elected in 2017 as Canterbury’s first Labour MP in a century, Duffield vocally campaigned  against anti-Semitism from the off. Back then, with Corbyn as party leader, she was criticised by local members for attending a rally and supporting then Labour MP Luciana Berger who had condemned anti-Semitism within the party. Of course, none of this matters to the vexatious transgender ideologues outraged that a woman has the temerity to defend sex-based rights. That Duffield continues to resist their intimidatory tactics and insist on speaking up for biological reality has clearly driven them mad.  

Sadly, Duffield’s haters are unlikely to see her exoneration as a sign that they should call off their campaign against her. They know that the outcome of any investigation is largely irrelevant: it is the process that is the punishment. They have sentenced Duffield to continual scrutiny and a constant need to defend herself, as well as a never ending stream of abusive comments and slanderous accusations. When this becomes your life, day in, day out, the hardiest souls are left worn out and frustrated at the waste of time and energy.

Even the reporting of Duffield’s exoneration has been coloured by hostility to her views on gender. Initially, BBC News wrongly declared that the NEC investigation was prompted by Duffield having ‘liked a tweet supporting antisemitism and transphobia’. Yet Linehan’s pithy response to Izzard’s grandstanding was neither of those things.

The BBC has since issued a correction and now claims simply that Duffield was ‘placed under investigation by the party after she liked a tweet from comedy writer Graham Linehan’. A line at the bottom of the piece notes: ‘The second paragraph of this article was amended on 4 January 2024’. But this makes it seem as if a spelling mistake has been corrected, not that the reporter’s seemingly ideologically-loaded interpretation egregiously slandered both Duffield and Linehan. It’s not a vague allusion to a correction that’s needed but an apology.

The complaints, the NEC investigation and the BBC’s misrepresentation of what happened are all symptomatic of the ways in which Duffield is made to defend herself not just from personal opponents but from large sections of the political and media establishment. Those who should have her back – or who should, at very least, remain impartial – have, all too often, been the ones to wield the knife. For all Starmer’s election year conversion to the importance of protecting single-sex spaces, public statements in support of his party’s own female MPs, harassed for defending women’s rights, are notable only by their absence.

The only person who emerges from Labour’s NEC investigation with a shred of integrity is Duffield herself. Her response demonstrates the dignity and bravery that has come to characterise her approach to politics. As one of her Canterbury constituents, I look forward to being able to vote her back into office in this year’s general election.

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