Thursday, July 18, 2024

Diane Abbott says she has been banned from standing for Labour -Dlight News

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Veteran Labour MP Diane Abbott has said she is banned from standing for the party at the general election despite regaining the whip after an investigation into her remarks about Jewish people.

Abbott, Britain’s first Black female MP, told the Financial Times that Labour would not permit her to stand as a candidate on July 4 but had allowed her to rejoin the parliamentary party until then.

“Although the whip has been restored, I am banned from standing as a Labour candidate,” she also told the BBC on Wednesday morning. 

The apparent move to stop Abbott, leftwing MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, from representing Labour at the election triggered criticism of party leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Momentum, a leftwing pressure group, said the decision to prevent her standing was a “slap in the face” for people who had been inspired by her courage in the face of discrimination and abuse.

“It is a dark day for the Labour party when Diane Abbott isn’t welcome as a Labour MP, but a hard-right Tory like Natalie Elphicke is,” it added, referring to the defection of the former Conservative MP to Labour this month.

Labour did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Starmer has sought to pull Britain’s main opposition party back to the centre ground of UK politics after his hard-left predecessor Jeremy Corbyn lost the 2019 election.

But some MPs have accused him of ruthlessly sidelining his internal opponents.

One centrist Labour MP said there was a “lot of rage” over barring Abbott and that it “looked terrible”.

A second centrist Labour MP said the party should have let the veteran MP stand in order to “get it off being an issue”.

A third Labour MP said Starmer’s inner circle was “clearing people out. You wait to see the stitch-ups for the plum seats.”

Abbott, who has a majority of more than 33,000, was suspended by Labour in April last year after suggesting in a letter to the Observer newspaper that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people only experienced “prejudice” rather than racism.

Starmer pledged to root out antisemitism within Labour after the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the equalities watchdog, found in 2020 that during Corbyn’s time as leader the party had failed to rein in anti-Jewish sentiment among some members.

Abbott apologised and retracted her comments shortly after the Observer letter was published, but remained suspended from the Parliamentary Labour party, meaning she remained an MP but sat as an independent.

An investigation into Abbott was completed by Labour’s ruling national executive committee in December, when she was instructed to apologise, according to a Labour figure who declined to be identified.

Starmer said last week that Abbott’s case would be resolved before June 4, when Labour finalises its list of parliamentary candidates. He had said Abbott was “going through a process” that was “not finally resolved yet”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seized on the row on Wednesday: “The Labour party has been telling everybody this investigation into Diane Abbott is ongoing, it now appears it concluded months ago.”

The Times first reported on Tuesday that Abbott would be forced to step down as Labour figures briefed that the party was considering who would stand in her stead. Her successor will be agreed next Tuesday at a meeting of Labour’s governing national executive committee.

Abbott said in a post on X that she was “very dismayed” at the reports, which had meant she was unable to step down quietly after serving 37 years in parliament.

She had been offered the opportunity to step down “with dignity” ahead of the election in return for not standing again, according to people familiar with the matter.

Allies of Abbott said she was upset at the way that someone had briefed this arrangement to The Times.

“Why would the chief whip write [to Abbott] restoring the whip and then within 10 minutes someone is briefing the situation to the press,” said one ally.

First elected to parliament in 1987, Abbott spent most of her career on the backbenches before being appointed shadow home secretary by Corbyn. She returned to the backbenches when Starmer took the helm.

Abbott has long been the subject of online abuse: research by Amnesty International found she received 45 per cent of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs on Twitter, now X, in the run-up to the 2017 general election.

This year Frank Hester, the Tory party’s biggest donor, apologised after he was reported to have said in a private meeting in 2019 that looking at Abbott made “you just want to hate all Black women”.

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