Diane Abbott faces chaos and confusion from Labour leadership

  • Post last modified:May 29, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has denied that his party have barred Diane Abbott from standing as its candidate in the general election. However, the situation is far from resolved with chaos and confusion reigning.

Abbott is, of course, the first Black woman Labour politician and has been MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987. She was suspended by Labour in April last year over contentious comments she made about Irish, Jewish and Traveller people not facing racism “all their lives”. Although she promptly apologised and withdrew the remarks the party opened an investigation. Its findings have not been publicly disclosed. However, as the Guardian reported:

Which begs the question, why didn’t Starmer and the Labour leadership announce that the investigation had concluded?

What now?

The BBC reported on the morning of Wednesday 29 May that Abbott had told one of their journalists that she had been readmitted to Labour’s parliamentary ranks this week but that she was “banned from standing as a Labour candidate” in the 4 July election.

Rumours have been rife that Abbott could be replaced as the Labour candidate for her constituency in next months elections. But, when Starmer was asked about Abbott not standing as a Labour candidate in the upcoming elections he insisted:

No that’s not true. No decision has been taken to bar Diane Abbott.

About as clear as mud, then. As the BBC reported:

It is unclear if his comments are a statement of technical fact – no formal decision about her candidacy will be made until Labour’s national executive meets next week – or a shift in the direction of travel.

At this stage, it remains unclear if Abbott is restored to the parliamentary party only and her candidacy for her constituency appears to be yet to be confirmed. On social media, she said:


This appears to suggest that she has not yet heard directly from Labour. If Abbott were white she would not have been treated so disrespectfully. Her apology would have been accepted, her years of service recognised, and she would be left to get on with campaigning for her constituency.

Diane Abbott historically targeted

Instead, this saga threatens to become a major campaign distraction for Labour. After how Starmer’s treated Abbott, that’s the least they deserve. Many on the left-wing – in stark contrast to Starmer’s centrism – have taken a dim view of all this.

Six unions have written to Starmer warning that they expect to see her standing as a Labour candidate in the general election:

Notably, Aslef, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, Unite, the National Union of Mineworkers, the Communication Workers Union, and the Fire Brigades Union said:

For over thirty years – since becoming the first Black woman ever elected to Parliament – Diane has stood in every election as a Labour party candidate.

The confusion around Abbott’s position is galling given her prestige as a prominent Black MP. However, it is also characteristic of the misogynoir she has faced repeatedly both through her own party, and others. As journalist Melissa Sigodo explained:

Unionist Howard Beckett recalled the scandalous scenes when an investigation into abuse faced by Abbott herself saw her ignored:

As the Canary’s James Wright reported at the time:

The establishment wants to use Abbott’s ethnicity as a tool to distract from its own failings. That was made clear when speaker Hoyle ignored Abbott as she tried to speak on the death threat made against her. We must continue to call this out.

The Runnymede Trust came out strongly to condemn the racist abuse and double standards Abbott faces:

Author Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu argued:

This is how you repay the 1st Black British Female MP after decades of inspiring service. The disrespectful, disgraceful & dehumanising treatment of Diane Abbott by @UKLabour is unequivocally, undeniably racist & viciously misogynoir. Starmer only restored the whip because of public outcry but his plan was always to ban her. Keir Starmer is a 2 faced lying double crossing political prostitute of the highest order.

MP Claudia Webbe called out Labour’s racist treatment of Abbott:

Same old Starmer

Starmer has previously insisted that the disciplinary process is independent and that the party’s executive board would decide whether she could stand in July. It is due to meet next week to finalise the party’s formal list of candidates. He said:

This is a matter that will have to be resolved by the National Executive Committee and they’ll do that in due course.

Why should we believe them?

If today’s debacle has shown anything, it’s that Diane Abbott has the support of many left-wing folks who will not let her be quietly pushed out of the Labour party. Keir Starmer had better think again if he thinks we haven’t noticed that Diane Abbott is facing yet more misogyny as a dark-skinned Black woman in the Labour party.

Instead, she must deal with the chaos and confusion that the Labour leadership have caused, as she has had to do far too often.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image by Socialist Appeal/Wikimedia Commons via CC 2.0, resized

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