Why Is Diane Abbott Suspended From Labour's Parliamentary Party?

The veteran MP, who has been subject to"frightening" and "racist" comments from a Tory donor, currently sits as an independent.
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The “racist” abuse directed at Diane Abbott by the Conservative Party’s biggest donor has led to calls for the veteran MP to be given the Labour Party whip back.

Abbott, the UK’s first female Black MP, currently sits as an independent after she was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) last year.

Why was Abbott suspended?

Abbott had the party whip withdrawn after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people had never been “subject to racism”.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, apologised “unreservedly”.

In a letter to The Observer in April 2023, Abbott responded to an article by Tomiwa Owolade titled: “Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated”.

Abbott said: “Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism’

“They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.

“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice.

“But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus.

“In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

In response, the Labour Party withdrew the party whip for the “deeply offensive and wrong” comments.

Abbott apologised for her letter, but the suspension remains in place.

’I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them,” she said at the time.

“The errors arose in an initial draft being sent. But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.

“Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.

“Once again, I would likely to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”

What does it mean?

The suspension means Abbott is not eligible to stand as the Labour candidate in the east London seat she has held since 1987 at the upcoming general election, unless she is re-instated before it is called.

Why do people want the suspension lifted?

On Monday, The Guardian reported Frank Hester, a Tory donor, made comments about Abbott that Rishi Sunak has finally admitted were “racist”.

Hester allegedly said in 2019 that Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

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

Former shadow chancellor Balls, who is now a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said Keir Starmer should re-admit Abbott to PLP as a show of support.

“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 on Tuesday.

“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.”

Dawn Butler, the Labour MP for Brent South, has also said Abbott “needs to have the whip returned”.

Will the whip be returned?

Starmer has said Hester’s words were “abhorrent” and described Abbott as a “trailblazer”.

“She has probably faced more abuse than any other politician over the years on a sustained basis,” the Labour leader said.

But HuffPost UK understands Labour has no plans to lift the suspension and giving Abbott back the party whip.


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