Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Labour, bullying and me

Intolerant leaders are forcing out dissent

Artillery Row

At Prime Minister’s Questions on 2 February, Rishi Sunak skewered Keir Starmer on the bullying of Rosie Duffield:

Recently one of his own MPs was forced to speak out because being in his party had reminded her of being in an abusive relationship and then his own office was caught undermining her … he ought to be supporting her.

Rather than respond to this accusation, Starmer retaliated with a version of “but you do it too and worse”, saying, “At the last count the Deputy Prime Minister was facing twenty-four separate allegations of bullying. With no sense of the irony he continued, “how would he feel if one of his friends or relatives was being forced to work for a bully simply because the man at the top was too weak to do anything about it?”

This demonstrates vivid hypocrisy on the part of Keir Starmer, who refuses to intervene when Rosie Duffield is relentlessly bullied by members of the Labour Party. After Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP shouted her down in a House of Commons debate on the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform, and another MP, Ben Bradshaw, shouted “absolute rubbish” as she spoke, Starmer’s spineless lack of response to this appalling behaviour shows contemptibly weak leadership.

Debbonaire should have had the courage to back Duffield rather than discredit her

One feature of coercive and controlling abuse is name-calling or verbal bullying, and these men demonstrated that. Russell-Moyle called his attack “passion” to excuse it. Many domestic abusers justify their behaviour in this way, too. Physical intimidation is another tactic, including aggressive gestures such as curled fists or glaring. Russell-Moyle, red-faced and shouting, pointed angrily at Miriam Cates MP and called her transphobic. He then moved and took his seat very close to her, glaring deliberately at the side of her head in a textbook example of controlling behaviour. 

Matthew Doyle, Starmer’s Executive Director of Communications, was recently recorded briefing against Rosie Duffield. He said, “It’s a ‘Rosie is Rosie’ thing. Belittling and undermining a woman is a feature of coercive control. It verges on victim blaming to suggest that Duffield invites the abuse she receives, or even that it doesn’t really happen. Rosie Duffield is absolutely correct to point out the parallels between this behaviour and the features of domestic abuse she experienced. 

I don’t believe that either Sunak or Starmer care about Rosie Duffield in the slightest. Sunak sees her as a temporarily useful political pawn and Starmer as an ever-more painful thorn in his side. It is distressing to watch a woman talk of feeling abused by her own party in a way that triggers past trauma, then have that honest declaration taken and used by two male politicians to one-up each other on a political stage. Only one of those men, Starmer, has the ability to do something about the appalling bullying of Rosie Duffield, and he refuses. 

The women to either side of Starmer, Angela Rayner and Rachel Reeves, denied Sunak’s accusations, Rayner shaking her head repeatedly. What are they denying? Duffield’s feelings, her words or the reality of male violence and other sex-based oppression? This is uncaring and unthinking politics. “No one will believe you” is the threat men use and women fear. Raynor and Reeves pretending Duffield isn’t suffering has been followed by the astounding betrayal of Thangham Debbonaire MP, who said, “I don’t know why Rosie has chosen to express her views … my experience of the Labour Party is of a supportive dynamic. 

Debbonaire seems to feel that Rosie Duffield should stay quiet about her experiences as a victim of abuse and intimates she is lying. It has been suggested that privately Debbonaire expresses similar views on trans ideology. If so, perhaps she should have had the courage to back her rather than discredit her. Emily Thornberry MP, in an act of supreme cowardice, has said that she simply didn’t see anything. Conveniently not seeing the suffering of women who are showing and telling you about it, is a cowardly act by women seeking to appease powerful men to protect themselves or their position. 

I am being expelled because of my views on the issue of women’s rights

Many women who have always found the left to be their natural political haven now have realised that the Labour Party is no longer the safe or welcoming home they once found it to be. Left wing women are leaving Labour over its blatant refusal to hear women’s concerns on the clash between gender identity and women’s rights. Women ask to be listened to and are ignored and isolated. They still yearn for a Labour Party that cares about them like it used to, and some feel that eventually if they make sound and well-evidenced points then the Ministers will respond sympathetically. Unfortunately, the men of the party keep politically slapping them in the face. The parallels with appealing to an abuser are stark. 

I was expelled from the Labour Party by email on 15 December 2022. There had been a preposterous accusation made about me that I had supported the Green Party, which is against Party rules. I was allowed to make written representation before being swiftly found guilty and told to attend no more meetings or take part in campaigning activity. The offending tweet was this: “Pleased to see the very lovely @alisonclareteal has been selected as Green Party parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Central”.

I naively pointed out in my evidence submission that this is not supportive of the Party. I have been highly critical of the Green Party for many years, and congratulating a competent candidate on parliamentary selection is not unusual. Keir Starmer has congratulated both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on their respective appointments as Prime Minister. Women of the Labour Party cannot behave like the leader of the Party it seems. I know I am being expelled because of my views on the issue of women’s rights and how they conflict with trans activist demands. My own MP Olivia Blake was annoyed by my becoming a Labour Party women’s officer and refused to engage with me throughout that time. This expulsion is a nefarious slash at my views, which are worthy of respect in a democratic society. 

Just like when I was being abused, I am not allowed to speak about their unfair treatment of me. I am threatened that I must not speak about the investigation to a third party or the media lest action will be taken. I had the right to appeal but likewise had the command to be silent about doing so, or expulsion would be immediate. Labour refused to let me know the result of my appeal. They refuse to give me a time frame. They want me to be silent as I wait. 

The thing about victims of abuse is that once we take a man’s foot off our throat and walk free of him, we are often very difficult to keep silent ever again. I am not afraid to walk from under the shadow of the Labour Party, until they remember how much they need women. I will not abandon the left, but I am not the property of misogynistic men of the left or the cowardly women who sit alongside them instead of standing up for the feminist warrior Rosie Duffield. 

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