NEWS
10/09/2019 11:43 BST | Updated 10/09/2019 14:05 BST

Diane Abbott Accuses Lord Sugar Of Harassment, Sparking Twitter Campaign

MP's supporters rally around #IStandWithDiane hashtag and urge social media company to take action to curb online abuse.

PA/Getty
Diane Abbott MP and Lord Alan Sugar

Diane Abbott has accused Lord Alan Sugar of harassing her online, alleging that he has a history of abusive behaviour towards her.

In a strongly worded statement on Twitter, the Hackney MP wrote: “this man repeatedly posts ‘disrespectful & offensive’ msgs & photos of me.”

“This is ‘targeted harassment’,” she added. “He has a history of ‘abusive’ tweets about me i.e. sexist poetry.”

Sugar has denied accusations of racism. “There is nothing racist in my criticism of Diane Abbot [sic],” he tweeted on Sunday. “I am entitled not to like her.”

Abbott’s criticism of Sugar prompted an outpouring of online support for her, culminating in the #IStandWithDiane hashtag trending on Twitter on Monday evening into Tuesday morning. Users expressed solidarity with Abbott and called on the social media platform to take action against Sugar.

Sugar, who had been one of the Labour party’s biggest donors while a member from 1997 to 2015, has been a frequent critic of the party.

Last April, he tweeted a poem expressing contempt for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in which Abbott received an offensive mention.

A 2017 Amnesty International study found that Abbott – who is Britain’s first black, woman MP – received 45% of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs in the six weeks before election day that year, 10 times more abuse than any other woman MP.

Last July, Abbott detailed the abuse and intimidation she had been subjected to, saying: “I’ve had death threats. I’ve had people tweeting that I should be hung – if, quote, ‘they can find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight’.”

She added: “I’ve had rape threats, described as a ‘pathetic, useless, fat, black, piece of sh*t’, ‘ugly fat black bitch’, and ‘n****r’. N****r over and over again.”

In December, Abbott said that social media companies like Twitter must do more to combat abuse. “I never had this scale of abuse when I first came into politics and racism was an issue then as now,” she said, “but it’s the anonymity and the ease of Twitter which has put racists into overdrive.”

A Twitter spokesperson told HuffPost UK that while the company does not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons, it takes the online safety of MPs “extremely seriously”.

“Building on the product and policy changes we made in recent years to improve safety, have a strategic relationship in place with the Parliamentary Security Department in the UK Parliament,” the spokesperson said.

“This involves weekly meetings, and access to a bespoke portal to flag a wider range of reports to us”.

HuffPost UK has contacted both Diane Abbott and Alan Sugar’s offices for comment.