Sir Keir Starmer has criticised a Labour MP’s remarks about trans women and called for laws to go further to protect trans rights.
The Labour leader said Rosie Duffield, who is not attending the party conference in Brighton after receiving threats and being branded transphobic, was wrong to say “only women have a cervix”.
He called for a “mature and respectful debate” around trans rights, as he warned that trans individuals are among the “most marginalised and abused communities”.
Ms Duffield has faced criticism for opposing people who were born male but self-identify as trans having access to spaces such as domestic violence refuges, school toilets and prisons.
The Canterbury MP also queried being called a “transphobe” for “knowing that only women have a cervix”.
Sir Keir declined to call her remarks transphobic but did tell The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.
“I spoke to Rosie earlier this week and told her conference is a safe place for her to come, and it is a safe place for her to come.
“We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.”
Sir Keir added: “We need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities, and wherever we’ve got to on the law, we need to go further.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said she was shocked by the level of abuse aimed at female politicians and it was a “concern” that Ms Duffield felt unable to attend the conference.
Ms Rayner told Sky News: “What I have been shocked by, especially my female colleagues – and that’s Conservative female MPs as well – is the level of misogynist abuse they get.”
She promised “robust” action against any Labour member who targets Ms Duffield.
“Rosie deserves our full support and protection against that and she would get that. If she had come to conference, we would have risk-assessed and made sure that she had every bit of support that she needed to be here.
“Anybody who abuses Rosie Duffield who is a member of the Labour Party would go through our formal complaints procedure and I would expect a robust response on it.”