JK Rowling has accused Labour of failing to support MP Rosie Duffield, who claims to have been “cold shouldered” by the party over her views on transgender issues.
Ms Duffield compared being in the party to an abusive relationship she had been in after she faced criticism for her stance on women’s rights in the transself-identification debate.
The row intensified after it emerged that a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer suggested Ms Duffield’s constituents wanted the Canterbury MP to “spend a bit more time” in her constituency rather than “hanging out with JK Rowling”.
A recording of the comments by Labour’s director of communications Matthew Doyle were published by the Guido Fawkes website on Monday.
Responding, Ms Rowling tweeted: “Rosie Duffield, an ex-assistant teacher, single mother and survivor of domestic abuse, won Labour a seat they thought was unwinnable.”
The Harry Potter author added: “Post-Corbyn, she was returned to parliament with an increased majority. This is how Labour repays her.”
The best-selling children’s author organised an event in London in the spring for women’s rights campaigners, with Ms Duffield among the attendees.
Ms Duffield also defended her constituency work on Twitter and hit out at Mr Doyle’s reported remarks. “When women are considered difficult, these statements are obviously designed to undermine us,” she tweeted.
“Sew a little seed of doubt, rumours, ‘whether she spends time in her constituency’ … that might catch on. Politics is nasty. But think on, I am used to so much worse.”
It is understood that the Labour aide in question said he respected Ms Duffield’s right to speak out on trans issues.
During last week’s debate on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill – opposed by Ms Duffield and Ms Rowling – the Labour MP had to raise her voice to be heard above the noise coming from others, including from her own party’s benches.
The Scottish parliament last month voted to allow trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate through a process known as self-identification and without the need for a medical diagnosis – but the UK government stepped in to stop it from becoming law.
Former Labour minister Ben Bradshaw could be heard calling her concerns “absolute rubbish” as he listened to Ms Duffield defend the need for spaces “segregated by sex”, including domestic violence settings, changing rooms and prisons.
Taking to Twitter afterwards, she said she was “shouted down in the chamber” by male Labour MPs “who clearly don’t want women to speak up for our rights to single sex spaces”.
Sir Keir said Labour must have “respect and tolerance” in the face of differing opinions on the trans debate. “I’m very concerned that all of our discussions in the Labour party and in politics are discussions that we have with respect and with tolerance,” he told broadcasters on Monday.
“And they’re the principles and the values that I want to see in our Labour Party and that I insist on in our Labour Party, whether it’s Rosie Duffield or anybody else,” Sir Keir added.
Asked about reports of his aide’s remarks about Ms Duffield, Mr Starmer said: “Respect and tolerance are values of the entire Labour party. Of course I know there are strong and differing opinions on a number of issues.”
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Labour needs “less heat” and more “understanding” when discussing trans issues. He told Times Radio on Tuesday that he was “really, really sad” to hear Ms Duffield describe being in the party as like abusive relationship.