GMB MPs staff branch condemns “actions of Rosie Duffield towards staff member”

Sienna Rodgers

The GMB trade union branch for MPs’ staff members has condemned the behaviour of Labour backbencher Rosie Duffield after a second employee reportedly quit her office over alleged transphobia.

LabourList can reveal that the branch has unanimously passed a motion criticising the MP’s “actions” towards her former staffer, who is one of its members, including “attempting to reveal her identity on social media”.

PinkNews reported this week that a second staff member had resigned from Duffield’s office, citing concerns over the MP’s comments on LGBT+ issues. The news comes soon after a first staffer took the same action.

On Wednesday evening, Duffield tweeted: “Yet more absolute rubbish written about me by @LGBTLabour and @PinkNews as part of their daily/weekly onslaught.

“It is very hard for MPs to dispute the garbage we have to read about ourselves constantly. I will tackle the latest untruths when I have the time and energy…”

When she was quote tweeted by someone who praised the resigned staffer for “bravery”, the Labour MP replied: “‘Bravery’?! Well, as you have a photo of her in your Twitter bio, I imagine your not at all biased much???”

Many Labour activists online have criticised the behaviour of Duffield towards her former staff member and her comments, and called on the Labour leadership to withdraw the party whip from the Canterbury MP.

The GMB branch has written to the opposition chief whip, Parliamentary Labour Party chair and general secretary asking for an investigation into the conduct of Duffield and demanded her resignation as chair of the women’s PLP.

According to a letter from August seen by Pink News, the only LGBT+ employee working in the Canterbury MP’s office resigned in protest at what she described as Duffield’s “overtly transphobic” views.

A spokesperson for the MP at the time said: “Rosie fully supports trans rights and the Labour Party’s commitment to upholding the Equality Act and updating the GRA, which the Conservative government has delayed for far too long.

“She believes passionately that people have the right to live with dignity and be treated with respect in an equal and inclusive society.”

The MP for Canterbury faced criticism from Labour activists in August after she liked a tweet by Piers Morgan in which the broadcaster took issue with a CNN post that referred to “individuals with a cervix”.

After being criticised for liking the tweet, Duffield reacted by saying: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix… ?!”. She later shared a Spectator article that referred to a “transgender thought police”.

LabourList has contacted Rosie Duffield for comment.

Below is the full text of the GMB members’ staff branch motion.

Emergency Motion: Condemnation of Actions of Rosie Duffield MP towards Staff Member

GMB Members’ Staff Branch notes that:
• On 14th October PinkNews covered resignation of a member of staff from the Office of Rosie Duffield MP. This is the second member of Ms Duffield’s staff to resign this month.
• The individual who resigned is a member of the GMB Branch for Members’ Staff.
• Rosie Duffield MP tweeted referring to the coverage of our member’s letter from PinkNews and LGBT Labour as “rubbish” and “untruths”.
• A Labour activist tweeted her support of our member and referred to her “bravery to quit [a] job in the middle of a global pandemic in order to take a stand on what you think is right”.
• Ms Duffield responded with “’Bravery’?! Well, as you have a photo of her in your Twitter bio, I imagine your not at all biased much???” [Sic]
• Ms Duffield has 32.6K Twitter followers and her engagement with the Labour activist garnered significant traction.
• Ms Duffield is the Chair of the Women’s PLP.
• Some members of GMB Members’ Staff Branch are unable to speak out publicly on this issue.

GMB Members’ Staff Branch believes:

• Rosie Duffield MP put our branch member in a dangerous position by attempting to reveal her identity on social media, risking her health and wellbeing.
• Ms Duffield, in doing so, publicly outed the member of staff who had deliberately chosen to remain anonymous. This left the staff member vulnerable to online abuse and fearful for her safety.
• Ms Duffield exploited her significant online following and abused her position as an MP to pursue this.
• Ms Duffield appears to have breached the Parliamentary behaviour code in multiple ways.
• An investigation into her behaviour should be taken by the Labour Party without delay and disciplinary action taken if found appropriate.
• Ms Duffield’s position as Chair of the Women’s PLP is untenable and she should resign.
• A failure to address this behaviour sets a precedent for future staff members to be attacked publicly by their MPs, with no ramifications for the MP.
• Staff must receive assurances of the Labour Party’s resolve to protect them online and in person from threats, with a particular regard for young female staff members, or others with protected characteristics.
• We condemn all harassment towards anyone within a protected characteristic.

GMB Members’ Staff Branch resolves:
• To condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of Rosie Duffield MP in publicly violating the privacy of a staff member and making her vulnerable to abuse and threats.
• To write to the Opposition Chief Whip, the Chair of the PLP, and the General Secretary of the Labour Party to request an investigation into the conduct Rosie Duffield MP.
• To call on Rosie Duffield MP to resign her position as Chair of Women’s PLP, for the safety and mental wellbeing of young female MPs’ staff.

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