Diane Abbott Questions Labour Attacking 'Indian-Heritage PM' In Controversial Ads

Senior MP expresses unease with post suggesting Rishi Sunak doesn't want child sex abusers to go to prison.
Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott.
Keir Starmer and Diane Abbott.
PA News

Diane Abbott has attacked Labour’s controversial adverts attacking Rishi Sunak in the latest sign of internal party disquiet.

The initial ad, which accused the prime minister of not wanting child sex abusers to go to prison, caused unease among the shadow cabinet with shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell declining to endorse it.

On Monday, Abbott, who was shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, responded to a tweet from Shabana Mahmood, the party’s national campaign coordinator who defended the aggressive ads.

Mahmood wrote: “People don’t want more excuses from politicians – they want answers. Labour is the party of law and order.”

In response, Abbott said: “But do people want a party that posts pictures of an Indian-heritage PM claiming he does not want sex offenders put in prison?”

She said in an earlier tweet: “Starmer stands by his ad. Does he also stand by suggesting Indian-heritage PM won’t put sex abusers in prison, when right wing says most sex abusers are from Indian sub-continent?”

Abbott has recently criticised home secretary Suella Braverman for rhetoric claiming most child sex abusers are Pakistani.

Others on the Labour left have expressed their unease with the tactics. Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Labour is “better than this” and Corbyn – who has been suspended from the parliamentary party – has hit out at “dog-whistle politics”.

Starmer has dismissed criticism of the advert, saying he made “absolutely zero apologies” for the campaign regardless of how “squeamish” it made people feel.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the Labour leader said he refused “to just stand by or avoid calling this what it is”.

Senior party figures including former home secretary Lord David Blunkett called for the ad to be withdrawn, arguing that Labour is better than the “gutter” politics.

Further adverts scheduled to drop ahead of the May local elections are to include one suggesting Sunak thinks it is right that the public is paying for the “Conservatives crashing the economy” through higher housing costs.

Labour's two attack adverts following the same format.
Labour's two attack adverts following the same format.
Labour Party

The row centres on a tweet in which Labour highlighted analysis of official data and said that under the Tories “4,500 adults convicted of sexually assaulting children under-16 served no prison time”.

Alongside a photo of the prime minister, it read: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”

Judges and magistrates, rather than the prime minister of the day, are responsible for handing out sentences.

The figures Labour highlighted cover the period since 2010, five years before Sunak entered parliament. He did not become prime minister until October last year.


What's Hot