Diane Abbott Should Get Labour Party Whip Back In Wake Of Race Row, Says Ed Balls

Former shadow chancellor says Keir Starmer should readmit Abbott to ensure she is "supported and defended".
Guy Smallman via Getty Images

Ed Balls has called on Keir Starmer to give Diane Abbott the Labour Party whip back as a show of support following “racist” comments directed at her.

The former shadow chancellor said the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP should not be “left on her own” after Tory donor Frank Hester was reported to have said she made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

Abbott said the remarks were “frightening” given two MPs have been murdered in recent years.

Starmer said that Hester’s words were “abhorrent” and demanded Rishi Sunak return the £10m he donated to the Tory party last year.

Abbott had the Labour whip suspended in April last year after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people had never been “subject to racism”. She later apologised “unreservedly”.

Former shadow chancellor Balls, who is now a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said Starmer should re-admit Abbott to the parliamentary Labour party (PLP).

“She was suspended from the PLP a year ago for saying something she probably shouldn’t have said and she apologised for it,” he said.

“The fact that a year on, she’s still outside the PLP, my personal view is she should be brought back following that apology and she should be supported and defended rather than left on her own, which is what’s happening at the moment.”

Hester, who runs health tech firm TPP, was reported by The Guardian to have made the remarks at a meeting in 2019.

Talking about a female executive at another firm, he said: “It’s like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you’re just like I hate, you just want to hate all black women because she’s there, and I don’t hate all black women at all, but I think she should be shot. ″[The executive] and Diane Abbott need to be shot.”

TPP said Hester accepted that “he was rude about Diane Abbott in a private meeting several years ago” but his criticism “had nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Abbott said: “It is frightening. I live in Hackney and do not drive, so I find myself, at weekends, popping on a bus or even walking places more than most MPs.

“I am a single woman and that makes me vulnerable anyway. But to hear someone talking like this is worrying.”

“The fact that two MPs have been murdered in recent years makes talk like this all the more alarming.”

The veteran MP added: “I am no longer a member of the parliamentary Labour party but remain a member of the Labour Party itself so am hoping for public support from Keir Starmer.”

Starmer said: “The comments about Diane Abbott are just abhorrent. Diane has been a trailblazer.

“She has paved the way for others. She has probably faced more abuse than any other politician over the years on a sustained basis.

’And I’m sorry, this apology this morning - that is pretending that what was said wasn’t racist or anything to do with the fact she’s a woman - I don’t buy that I’m afraid and I think that it’s time the Tory party call it out and return the money.”

This morning, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said people should “move on” from the row

“I think the critical point here is I don’t think what he was saying was a gender-based or a race-based comment, but it was clearly inappropriate,” he told Sky News.

Conservative energy minister Graham Stuart also sought to downplay the significance of Hester’s remarks given they were made “half a decade ago”.


What's Hot