Analysis comment

Right-wing press rallies to defend ‘bullied’ Duffield after members say she’s moved out of constituency

Canterbury MP now claims house in Wales near partner’s new job is ‘holiday home’. Right-wing Establishment journalists rush to claim scrutiny is bullying, but email to members doesn’t quite deny the move

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield

Controversial centrist MP Rosie Duffield has claimed that a house she has bought in North Wales with her partner near his new job is a holiday home and that scrutiny and the anger of local members at the prospect of her living hundreds of miles from the constituency is ‘bullying’ – and the Establishment press has been quick to push her version of the story.

Skwawkbox wrote to Ms Duffield a week ago for comment after local party members complained that she had moved to North Wales without telling them – and claimed that party whips had only found out about the move because of the dialling code of a contact number she gave them:

Skwawkbox understands that you have moved to North Wales with your partner Mr Routh and that your local members are very upset about it, particularly because you didn’t inform them beforehand.

I further understand that:

– the Labour whips only found out about your move because of the dialling code in a landline contact number you provided to them
– that there have been concerns among local members about your local presence and non-response to constituents, but that your move only came to light this month despite taking place in late summer last year and is now common knowledge in the CLP
– the the CLP chair asked you to confirm that you would move back to the area to.carry out your duties but you told them your future is now in Wales because of your partner’s job
– there is considerable upset, dismay and anger among local party members at what they feel is the disrespect of not informing them about your move before it took place and the inevitable impact on your fulfilment of your duties as their MP…

…please respond promptly if you wish to have any comment included at the point the article goes out. If it comes later, I will of course add it when received.

Apart from an automated acknowledgement, no response has been received.

On the same day an article appeared in the local print press showing the MP describing an article published by a Kent – but not Canterbury – Labour member about the move as ‘personal, libellous, nasty and fictional crap’:

Duffield also sent a similarly-worded email that day to local members:

It has come to my attention that there are rumours circulating around the CLP – that were raised in an official CLP meeting – that I have moved to live in another part of the UK and am no longer living or working in my own constituency. 

In the almost five years since I was first elected, I have heard and read many ridiculous, amusing, disturbing and libellous things which have absolutely no relationship with the truth. 

Sadly this seems to go with the territory of being a Member of Parliament. 

I am disappointed that I even have to write this email to you. Although several MPs do not base their family or have a home in their constituencies, this is not the case for me. As those of you who know me personally will be aware, I remain the MP in and for Canterbury, my family home is here, with my office and great staff team based in Whitstable.

Thank you to all those who have been in touch to offer support and to all those friends in the party that continue to work hard for a Keir Starmer-led Labour government. 

A careful reading of that email shows that while she says many libellous things have been written about her, she did not specifically say that the claim about moving house was one of them – and the Kent Gazette notes that in response to claims she is never seen in the constituency, she tweeted:

I am seen by my mum every weekend.

Which may not quite address the issue of her constituency responsibilities.

The Hodges defence

And today, Duffield has been defended by none other than the Tory-supporting anti-Corbyn obsessive Dan Hodges in the Mail on Sunday, who has described scrutiny of Ms Duffield as ‘bullying’ in a typical piece of anti-left snidery. Hodges specifically includes the Skwawkbox press enquiry in his summary of this ‘bullying’.

In this latest piece – though interestingly not in the local press coverage a week ago nor in her email to local members – Duffield claims her new abode in North Wales is a ‘holiday home’, a claim duly parroted by Hodges before he turns to the issue of the press enquiry:

Finally, she received an email from the Corbynite news site Skwawkbox. The editor had been told that Duffield was moving to another constituency, and that ‘your local members are very upset about it’. 

It cryptically added that the Labour whips office were irritated because they had only found out about the move ‘because of the dialling code in a landline contact number you provided to them’.

According to Duffield’s allies, that was the moment it became clear she was being subjected to a co-ordinated smear campaign by sections of her own party. She felt her privacy was being deliberately violated. 

This tactic is an old one in centrist circles. In March 2018, when Skwawkbox sent a standard press enquiry to a number of right-wing Labour MPs about their records fighting racism, no response was received. Instead, the MPs ran to their tame stenographers in the press with an ‘open letter’ claiming some simple questions by email about their record constituted ‘bullying’:

In the latest example of this tactic, Hodges even goes so far as to claim scrutiny has compromised Ms Duffield’s safety – even though none of the coverage or questions have mentioned any location more precise than Wrexham, which is where her partner’s project is and is not, apparently, where the new house is situated:

And most significantly, she believed her safety was being compromised.

In August 2020, Duffield sparked controversy by claiming ‘only women have a cervix’. In the trans rights storm that followed, she received abuse, threats and was forced to implement new security protocols.

A friend of Duffield told me: ‘The house she bought is in a small village. If people are revealing the location, her security is going to be put at risk.’

Perhaps. But of course, to Skwawkbox’s knowledge, nobody is ‘revealing the location’ any more precisely than ‘North Wales’ – and the fact that it’s even a ‘village’ is only now public because of Hodges’ article.

Many Canterbury Labour members remain convinced that Duffield has upped sticks to Wales and that any change in her arrangements is a reaction to complaints and anger rather than a refutation of them. Author and scriptwriter Julie Wassmer, a Canterbury constituent, told Skwawkbox:

If a “holiday home” purchase in N Wales was really the answer to all this, why was that info not given out last Sunday when the concerns arose – in that blog piece? Instead, after all Rosie Duffield’s histrionics earlier in the day an official Labour “update”, very carefully and lawyerly phrased, went out to all local Labour members last Sunday evening, without direct denials of a move but with lots of side-stepping.

And to the allegation she’s never seen in the constituency, she posted on social media that her mum sees her every weekend – after which some residents asked “on Zoom?!”

This new Mail piece raises even more questions. If it was a holiday home, why did it take a week to tell us that and why is there no unambiguous denial? This just clouds the issue.

Another local confirmed that the home Duffield shared with her partner in Whitstable, a location that she regularly mentioned on social media, has been empty since last summer and suggested that she has registered as living at her mother’s address on the local electoral roll.

In 2020, Rosie Duffield resigned as a Labour whip after admitting breaching lockdown with her lover.

During Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Dan Hodges ran a number of personal attacks on the then-Labour leader, including a 2016 piece that portrayed Corbyn as a vampire and called for him to be killed.

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