Yesterday I met Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury and Whitstable. She was half an hour late for our appointment. Her train was late. The taxi wasn’t where they expected it to be. She runs into the meeting berating the train and the tube. Rosie is a slight, blond woman who, against all the odds beat long time conservative MP Julian Brazier with a slim 186 majority in a constituency that never had a Labour MP since voting began.
I congratulated her, “You must be very grateful to Jeremy Corbyn,” I said.
Rosie smiled, she seemed baffled when people told her on the stump they were voting for Jeremy and not her. “I heard that all the time,” she said. I pressed her to admit it was Jeremy who had energised the Labour vote in a traditionally conservative area but she was reluctant to agree Jeremy Corbyn was the reason she had her seat in parliament. I asked her if she was a ‘blairite’, she replied candidly, “I owe everything to Tony Blair.”
She whispered conspiratorially, “Jeremy’s nearly 70, you know.” As if telling a 58-year-old it’s all over for someone who is 69, all over for Jeremy Corbyn. I was beginning to understand who Rosie Duffield is and where her allegiances lay. I looked carefully into her eyes. “We need someone younger.” she says.
I wanted to meet Rosie Duffield to find out if she was adequately representing her LGBT constituents. So, I started our meeting by asking Rosie if she had ever heard of Rudolf Brazda. She hadn’t. Rudolf, the last holocaust survivor to wear a pink triangle, held at Buchenwald. I asked if she knew what a pink triangle signified. She nodded her head cautiously as if she were searching for a memory. I explained who Rudolf was and how his and other LGBT inmates were remembered in oral histories archived at the New York Holocaust museum.
Their stories are desperate, they tell how badly they were treated by both inmates and guards. Beaten, murdered by guards and inmates. Treated like pedophiles are treated in prisons today. I told her how, when the camps were liberated, the gay men were not set free but taken to prison by British and American liberators. These gay men, I reminded her, are my family of origin. Murdered in the concentration camps by both nazis and fellow inmates.
Rosie shifts in her seat uncomfortably.
I let her know my own history of dealing with homophobia in Whitstable, the daubing of homophobic slurs on my house, bricks through the windows and more recently being verbally assaulted by a homophobic public house land lady. Rosie seemed genuinely pained by my description. Rosie and her manager offered to speak to Jonathan Neame about the homophobia in his pubs. I accepted their offer graciously.
I wondered what Rosie Duffield’s definition of homophobia was? She mumbled she didn’t have one. I wondered why? Why hadn’t The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defined homophobia like they defined anti-Semitism? After all, we were there too. We… the LGBT community stood behind those terrible chain link fences walking with the dead and dying. Where was our definition of homophobia? A definition the party could work with?
Religion is a choice, sexuality is not.
I asked her if she thought Jeremy Corbyn was anti semitic and a racist.
Rosie wanted me to know her fiancé is black, that she couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be black, gay or jewish. She had to accept as the truth from her jewish friends if they were convinced Jeremy was anti-Semitic… she had no option but to believe them. I asked if she was ’empathetically challenged’? She became angry and told me she would ask me to leave if I spoke to her like that. She told me I was being rude.
“You mean… rude like Margaret Hodge was to Jeremy Corbyn?” Rosie told me she was a ‘Very good friend of Margaret Hodge’. I asked Rosie if I had called her a fucking homophobe would she ask me to leave the office. She told me Margaret Hodge had every right to shout at Jeremy because she was a jewish woman who had lost family in the holocaust.
I reminded her again. My family of origin also perished in the holocaust. Gay men without children, abandoned by their family for being gay. Who could possibly claim these men (sex perverts) as their relatives? It is incumbent upon men like me, willing to claim men like Rudolf as my own family, wrought from the history of lgbt oppression.
I asked again, “Where is the IHRA definition of homophobia?”
The definition of Anti Semitism has become the stick by which people like Margaret Hodge and her friend Rosie Duffield beat Jeremy Corbyn. Yet, as a gay man, when I want answers about her understanding of homophobia Rosie tells me her definition of homophobia is ‘common sense’.
Religion is a choice. Sexuality is not.
Rosie stumbled into admitting she was Roman Catholic. “A church riven by homophobia,” I say. “Religious people are not my friends Rosie, they have delivered a history of violent rebuke against LGBT people. Refusing to recognise our most basic human rights.” What are you going to do about the pockets of homophobia in the Anglican Church? You are, after all, the MP who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury?
Religious people are not our friends. Jews. Christians. Muslims. There are still passages in the Torah, Bible and Koran demanding death for practicing gay men. Why haven’t these passages been removed? When will Jews, Christians and Muslims remove passages from the Torah Bible and Koran that incite violence toward LGBT people? Legitimizing LGBT intolerance? When would she call for homophobia to be erased in all religions.
Rosie looked aghast.
The problem with Rosie? She’s a delightful, simple person. Her politics are scarcely evolved. Rosie isn’t ‘woke’. She probably didn’t expect to win her seat. Her understanding of her LGBT constituents is scant. It’s not her fault, she doesn’t ‘get’ how important historically the Labour Party was to LGBT people during the hostile 1960’s – 1980’s because she can’t imagine walking a mile in our shoes.
The meeting ended. A nervous looking latino man waiting in the lobby wanted to talk about Brexit. He was sitting with his daughter. I set off into the searing heat.
On the way home to Whitstable I felt shaken and slightly bullied. I’d experienced only a fraction of what is currently tearing at the heart of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Rosie is our existential threat. She exemplifies how Tony Blair snatched control from working people and handed power to a few entitled white folk.
Rosie has an agenda shared by many of her Blairite colleagues: to unseat Jeremy Corbyn. For those of us who believe passionately in Corbyn’s inclusive vision for our country it was inconsiderate of her to say she had no clue what the lives of gay, black or jewish people could be because she wasn’t black, jewish or gay.
I wondered how Rosie could possibly see past her white, christian heterosexuality to represent any minority? Me? The anxious latino man? The truth is, Rosie is not motivated to represent her constituents. Rosie is not interested in the lives of her constituents. Rosie is obsessed with regime change. She spends her time berating and bullying Jeremy Corbyn. She has no interest in me or indeed real instances of homophobia she is instead obsessed with politicised examples of anti-Semitism.
In 40 years I had never bothered to meet my Member of Parliament, then Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of The Labour Party. Even though I voted for Thatcher in ’78 and Blair in 1997 I never joined a political party. I have since joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party is the biggest political party in Europe because of Jeremy Corbyn.
The Labour Party needs MP’s who represent not only its 800,000 voting members but the millions of disaffected Britons who believe in radical change… sadly, for the constituents of Whitstable and Canterbury Rosie Duffield isn’t one of them.