Keir Starmer Leads Tributes To Diane Abbott Weeks After Selection Row

The veteran MP is the new mother of the House of Commons.
Diane Abbott addresses supporters during the election campaign.
Diane Abbott addresses supporters during the election campaign.
Kristian Buus via In Pictures via Getty Images

Keir Starmer has led tributes in the Commons to Diane Abbott, just weeks after she was at the centre of a row over whether she would stand for Labour at the election.

The veteran left-winger has become the mother of the House of Commons as the longest-serving female MP.

But just two months ago, it looked as though she would not even be a Labour candidate over a long-running feud with party bosses.

Abbott, who was first elected MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987, was stripped of the Labour whip in April last year over allegations of anti-Semitism.

She eventually had the whip restored at the end of May, but senior Labour sources said she would not be allowed to stand as an election candidate for the party.

However, after a furious backlash, Labour bosses finally relented and she was re-elected last week with a majority of 15,080.

As MPs returned to parliament today for the first time since the election, Starmer and Rishi Sunak both praised Abbott’s contribution to British politics.

Addressing the re-elected Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, the prime minister said: “I hope you will not begrudge me for a slight departure from convention to also pay tribute to the new mother of the house, Diane Abbott, who has done so much in her career over so many years to fight for a parliament that truly represents modern Britain. We welcome her back to her place.”

Sunak said: “We have our differences on policy, but no one can deny the right honourable lady’s important role in this house and the inspiration for so many young women of colour that she has provided.

“The right honourable lady is truly, in every sense of the word, a trailblazer.”

Abbott said: “When I was a new member in 1987, there were only 40 female members of parliament. Today we have 264, and some of us are glad that we have lived to see this.

“And I can’t speak about the increased numbers of female members of parliament without referencing my predecessor, Baroness Harriet Harman, who did so much to work to have an equal and diverse house.”


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