Sunday, May 12

Who’s Diane Abbott? From trailblazing MP to thorn in Labour’s facet

Diane Abbott made historical past when she was elected as Britain’s first black feminine MP for Labour in 1987.

But after many years of talking out on racism, her political profession hangs within the stability on account of broadly condemned feedback on the identical challenge.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP has had the Labour whip suspended following a letter in The Observer by which she recommended Jewish individuals, Irish individuals and travellers don’t face racism, however as an alternative endure prejudice like “redheads”.

Although she swiftly apologised and retracted the remarks, some need the previous shadow house secretary to face down and there are rising requires Labour to expel her.

The row comes simply weeks earlier than May’s native elections and dangers plunging the social gathering right into a contemporary antisemitism row following years of accusations dogging Jeremy Corbyn’s management.

But it is not the primary time the trailblazing politician has been a thorn in Labour’s facet.

Here, Sky News seems to be at what we all know in regards to the veteran MP.

A profession of firsts

Diane Abbott was born in London in 1953 to Jamaican immigrants. Her father labored as a welder and her mom was a nurse after shifting to the UK as a part of the Windrush era.

When she was a toddler, nobody in her household had gone to high school previous the age of 14.

But Ms Abbott was a star pupil on the Harrow County grammar faculty and went on to Newnham College in Cambridge, the place she obtained a grasp’s diploma in historical past.

Ms Abbott would go on to realize many firsts in her profession.

After graduating she briefly labored as a civil servant after which as a reporter earlier than getting into politics in her 30s – first on Westminster City Council in 1982 after which as an MP 5 years later.

Diane Abbott was Britain’s first black feminine MP
Labour MPs sit together during the heated debate on black sections on the final day of the Party conference in Brighton. (l-r) Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott. John Prescott can be seen, 2nd row, left.
Diane Abbott is seen as a trailblazer for illustration inside parliament

She fought racism and opposition from inside her personal social gathering to develop into the UK’s first black feminine MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987 – a seat she has been returned to at 9 elections since with large majorities.

A high-profile determine on the left of the social gathering, Ms Abbott has spent most of her 36-year profession making waves on the backbenches.

She is a vocal campaigner on race points, human rights, and civil liberties.

In 2008 she famously opposed efforts to increase the period of time that terror suspects could possibly be detained with out cost, making an award-winning speech in parliament that 12 months which Tory MP David Davis praised as “one of the finest I have heard since being elected to the House of Commons”.

She has campaigned for homosexual rights, harder motion on local weather change, reform of the Metropolitan Police and a fairer immigration system.

She has additionally spoken candidly about the abuse she has confronted as a black feminine MP, telling Sky News this has concerned being referred to as “a b****, a n*****, rape threats, people saying I should be hanged”.

But whereas many regard her as a trailblazer and champion of justice, her outspoken remarks have typically provoked the ire of MPs from inside her personal social gathering.

Hunger-striking Tamil refugees are joined on board the Government detention ship Earl William by Labour MPs Diane Abbott, Harry Cohen (centre) and Jeremy Corbyn.
Hunger-striking Tamil refugees are joined on board the federal government detention ship Earl William by Labour MPs Diane Abbott, Harry Cohen (centre) and Jeremy Corbyn in 1987
Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott has spent her profession preventing towards racism – however it’s feedback on this matter which have left her future hanging within the stability

Trouble on the backbenches

Under Tony Blair’s New Labour management, Ms Abbott voted persistently towards the Iraq struggle, college tuition charges and renewing the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system.

Her choice to teach her son privately brought about a storm of criticism in 2003 as a result of Ms Abbott had attacked her Labour colleague, Harriet Harman, for sending her son to a grammar faculty.

She described her choice as “indefensible” and “incoherent” but additionally mentioned she feared her little one would fall in with “black gangs” if he went to a state faculty.

After Labour’s loss on the 2010 election, Ms Abbott made an unsuccessful bid to develop into the following chief.

Ed Miliband, who was to win the competition, made her shadow minister for public well being that 12 months earlier than sacking her in 2013.

Within hours of her dismissal, she spoke out towards the social gathering’s failure to supply “a more far-reaching criticism of austerity” and recommended it was “pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment”.

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott at a protest for fairer immigration insurance policies

But Ms Abbott wasn’t off the frontbench for lengthy.

In 2015, when close-ally and good friend Jeremy Corbyn gained the Labour management, she was elevated to his shadow cupboard.

Most notably she turned shadow house secretary in 2016.

It was her most high-profile position but, however not one with out its controversies.

History of gaffes

Ahead of the 2017 normal election, Ms Abbott stumbled by way of an evidence of her social gathering’s plan for an extra 10,000 law enforcement officials in a famously excruciating interview on LBC.

Despite the coverage being totally costed, she got here up with incorrect figures of it costing £300,000 (£30 per bobby) after which £80m (£8,000 every).

The interview joined a listing of gaffes Ms Abbott has developed a popularity for making.

She as soon as argued China’s communist chief Chairman Mao did extra “good than harm” throughout a debate over who was historical past’s worst dictator.

Diane Abbot
Diane Abbott’s most high-profile place was as shadow house secretary underneath Jeremy Corbyn

And in 2012 she sparked outrage amongst taxi drivers after posting a tweet which mentioned: “Dubious of black people claiming they’ve never experienced racism. Ever tried hailing a taxi I always wonder?”

Perhaps her most well-known controversy was when she was compelled to apologise after getting caught consuming an M&S can of mojito on the London Overground community in 2019.

Though on this event she additionally obtained supportive messages in reply to her apology, with one individual writing: “I’ve never felt more represented.”


After Labour’s crushing defeat within the 2019 election, Ms Abbott stop her place as a shadow cupboard member, saying she wished to return to life on the backbenches and work on guaranteeing the social gathering does not take a “swerve to the right on migration policy”.

She has not shied away from criticising Sir Keir Starmer since he took the reins, questioning his place on strikes and the choice to ban Jeremy Corbyn from standing on the subsequent election as a Labour MP.

Ms Abbott will now be a part of her previous good friend as an impartial till Labour decides in any other case, with Sir Keir saying earlier that her feedback have been “antisemitic” and an investigation is ongoing.

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Asked if what Diane Abbott wrote was antisemitic, Sir Keir mentioned: ‘What she wrote yesterday, I totally condemn.’

While some need her out of Labour, left-wing group Momentum mentioned the whip needs to be restored after she apologised whereas veteran MP John McDonnell agreed – he mentioned she made a “terrible mistake and knows it”.

What did Diane Abbott say?

In her letter to The Observer, Ms Abbott challenged claims from author Tomiwa Owolade that “Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism'”, as an alternative claiming that they “undoubtedly experience prejudice”.

“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice,” she mentioned. “But they are not all their lives subject to racism.”

The former shadow house secretary added: “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 teams have been allowed to vote. And on the peak of slavery, there have been no white-seeming individuals manacled on the slave ships.”

Beyond her apology on Sunday morning, in which she said the “errors arose in an preliminary draft being despatched”, Ms Abbott has not yet commented on the Labour whip being removed, nor on calls for her to stand down at the next general election.

A day after she had the whip suspended, she continued with her criticism of the frontbench, attacking Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting’s plans to reform the NHS.

She also tweeted to mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, saying that: “Thirty years because the racist homicide of Stephen Lawrence, and the Met police is not any higher now than it was then #racism.”

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