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Keir Starmer owes Rosie Duffield an apology

Sir Keir Starmer on Good Morning Britain today. Credit: ITV/X

April 30, 2024 - 3:20pm

If you want to see a human being squirm, just say the words “Rosie Duffield” to Sir Keir Starmer. He immediately looks like a man who wishes he was somewhere else — at the dentist, maybe, or having an intimate medical procedure. It happened again this morning, when he was asked by Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain whether he was going to apologise to the Canterbury MP after finally admitting she was correct to say in 2021 that only women have a cervix.

The Leader of the Opposition tried, as usual, to swerve the question. “Rosie Duffield and I get on very well, we discuss a number of issues, she’s a much respected member of the Parliamentary Labour Party and I want to have a discussion with her and anybody else about how we go forward in a positive way,” he rambled.

This is not how Duffield sees it. She says Starmer hasn’t spoken to her for two-and-a-half years, and it’s not for want of trying on her part. Her efforts to talk to him about the bullying she’s endured from party members (and indeed anything else) have come to nothing, as she revealed in an article earlier this month.

“Have I heard a word from [Starmer]? Or from senior colleagues?” she wrote. “No!” She added that the party leader has “almost no personal contact with his backbenchers. The last message I sent to Keir, practically begging for support, was ignored.”

Duffield is certainly in need of support. She regularly encounters hostility in the House of Commons, where she says some of her Labour colleagues mutter about “fucking terfs” as she walks past. Worse, she’s been targeted by violent men, one of whom appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday. Glenn Mullen, 31, admitted sending threatening messages to Duffield and the author J.K. Rowling, one of which was a threat to shoot the MP.

Starmer’s refusal to apologise to Duffield is bad enough. It’s part of his mulish reluctance to admit he has said any number of risible things about sex and gender, as though we all have short memories and he can rewrite the past. He wholeheartedly embraced gender ideology after he became leader and now seems to be having second thoughts, which is hardly surprising in light of the casualties it’s already claimed — Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf in Scotland, Leo Varadkar in Ireland.

A decent man would throw up his hands and admit he was wrong. Instead, Starmer takes refuge in platitudes — but they’re dangerous platitudes. He says he talks to Duffield. She says he doesn’t. He says he wants to have a discussion with her and “anybody else” about sex and gender. So why have I been waiting more than three years for a response to my letter on this very issue, which described attacks on women members of the Labour Party by trans activists? He still hasn’t replied after I spoke to him in person at a dinner in May 2022.

The question of where our likely next prime minister stands on the conflict between women’s rights and the outrageous demands of trans activists is not going to go away. And Starmer has made the situation a great deal worse by appearing to lie on TV about his dealings with one of his own MPs.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She has been Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board since 2013. Her book Homegrown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists was published in 2019.

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
21 days ago

Such poor leadership. At least with Corbyn you knew what his views were and what you were or weren’t voting for..

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
21 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Corbyn is one of…possibly the only, honest man in Parliament.
He is a Socialist and doesn’t pretend otherwise.

David Giles
David Giles
21 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

He does pretend he’s not a racist anti-Semite though.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
20 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

So was Adolph.
Honesty shouldn’t be the main criteria. A politician who lies and does the right thing is better than a honest politician with unwavering absurd beliefs.

R Wright
R Wright
21 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Corbyn pretended to be pro-EU when he was actually a true believer Bennite Brexiteer.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
21 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yes but we all knew that, hence my point..

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
21 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Well we all know Starmer’s pretending too. I don’t see a difference.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
20 days ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Well perhaps it’s just me then.
I just had a much better sense of who Corbyn was, what he believed and what he stood for. I can’t say the same for Starmer.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
20 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

With Starmer as well we know what you vote for.
Instead of being his own honest views (as with Corbyn), it’s going to be a blind parroting of the views of his voting blocks.
A. Northerners who hate “Tories” and wallow in jealousy – stuff like VAT on schools, more talk about “welfare” and “taxes”
B. muslims who basically wants anything that’s pro muslim.
C. Liberal under 40 college indoctrinated women

If anything he has been less of a pushover than you might think (and no, I am not saying that as a fan):
Scaled back green spending
Refused to toe the Gaza line
Signs of wavering on the trans women line on occasion (and thereby appearing a hypocrite).

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
20 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Run for the hills! We’ve got

C. Liberal under 40 college indoctrinated women

Andrew R
Andrew R
21 days ago
John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Ha ha!

Michael Kellett
Michael Kellett
21 days ago

So Starmer is a liar and/or a coward. Who could have guessed that? And he’s our next prime minister. G*d help us all.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
21 days ago

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” I am sure Kier Starmer has had just as much practise as the Queen in Through the Looking Glass..

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
21 days ago

From the people who gave us Boris Johnson and Liz Truss!
Go and sit quietly until your senses return, Mikey!

John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago

Maybe he’s not sure what makes someone a member of his own party.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
21 days ago

If you can legislate that Rwanda is a safe country, then you can legislate that a man is a woman. Should you need to. Much as I would love to see the Cass Report implemented, do not hold your breath. The corrections are being issued, but the damage is done. It is widely believed that Dr Hilary Cass disregarded 98 per cent of research in the field, with the clear implication that that was because it disagreed with her preordained conclusion. Politics is low, and this is low politics.

Next, and you read it here first, will be that Dr Cass was a second wave feminist from central casting, handpicked to deliver a report that a state broadcaster has already described as “Far Right”. On Police advice, she no longer uses public transport. A correspondent advises me that that state broadcaster’s soap opera for teenagers has four transgender characters, one of whom the writers transitioned because the actor was doing it in real life. Who needs to change the law?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
21 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

We’ve already legislated that a man can be a woman, the Gender Recognition Act 2004. In fact, legislation that says black is white is very common. Statutes are full of statements along the lines of “for the purposes of this section, A is to be taken as B”.
Another example is the Fraud Act, which says that “a gain” is to be taken to include the avoidance of a loss.

George Venning
George Venning
21 days ago

Just a polite reminder that the expression “for the purposes of this act” isan important qualification.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
21 days ago

I am hoping that Peter Oborne will start a ‘The Lies of Keir Starmer’ website.

R MS
R MS
21 days ago

He can’t be trusted.
It’s clear he doesn’t ‘get it’ and still thinks he needs to keep in with the activists. I think this will get messy down the track.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
21 days ago

The vicious transphobic campaign continues at Unherd.
Kier Starmer continues to ignore it as he heads for an historic landslide whenever Sunak has the balls to call a general election.

Mark Cornish
Mark Cornish
21 days ago

Throwing epithets around again. No rational discourse; just slander as usual.

McLovin
McLovin
20 days ago

“he heads for an historic landslide” – at which point the grass will be greener, babies will be bonnier, the sheep will look more inviting, inflation will be banished forever, and milk and honey will be freely available with government subsidy.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
21 days ago

Is it just the angle or is Sir Kneelalot putting on the beef these days? Too many late night beer’n’curry sessions, perchance?

AC Harper
AC Harper
21 days ago

I’ve seen bureaucrats at work. They will often not respond to requests in the hope that the awkward person making them will give up and go away. And, of course, they are never wrong.
This makes me think that Starmer is at heart a bureaucrat, he comes from a bureaucratic background and perhaps knows no different. I don’t want such a person as Prime Minister – although the alternatives are probably no better.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
21 days ago

My comment has disappeared.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
21 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

My comment has disappeared.

If it’s anything like your other one, which begins “If you can legislate that Rwanda is a safe country, then you can legislate that a man is a woman”, perhaps that’s for the best.

David Giles
David Giles
21 days ago

“as though we all have short memories and he can rewrite the past.”

But that is what he does; just ask his”friend”, Jeremy Corbyn. He didn’t stay in that man’s shadow cabinet when everyone else resigned in disgust. He didn’t spend two years with John Bercow undermining centuries of parliamentary procedure, blocking the governance of our country and now he never said women can have a p***s. He believes w all have the memories of cos and we forget. And indeed we do. Until one day we don’t. That’s just how it works.

George Venning
George Venning
21 days ago

Starmer’s is an odd contribution to the pantheon of political lying.
What he lacks in talent he tries to make up for in sheer, doggedness.
I think it may have been in the very same interview when he was shown the footage of him being asked by Nick Ferrari whether Israel’s right to self defense included the use of a siege and the cutting off of power and water as a tactic and him saying, “I think it does have that right, yes.”
And he just thanked the Reid for showing the clip in full and claimed that it was clear that he was talking about Israel’s right to self-defense.
“So…” Reid asked.”did you mis-speak?”
And he couldn’t even admit that.
It’s just so tiring having one’s intelligence insulted like this.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
20 days ago
Reply to  George Venning

“tiring having one’s intelligence insulted like this”
Or maybe you just aren’t one of his vote base – and the ones who are, are too thick to have their “intelligence insulted?”

kate Dunlop
kate Dunlop
21 days ago

To paraphrase Aesop
Sir Keir Starmer is a proven liar and as a liar nothing he says will be believed – certainly not by those with a functioning brain and an ounce of critical capacity.

Terry Davies
Terry Davies
20 days ago

Indeed! (This was in response to ACHarper… apologies)

George Villeneau
George Villeneau
16 days ago

I can’t believe this man(Starmer) is shortly going to probably be our P.M