Diane Abbott gets Labour whip back but trail-blazing MP not expected to stand in election

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Diane Abbott was given back the Labour whip on Tuesday evening paving the way for her to step down as Britain’s first ever female black MP.

Labour’s leadership was reported to be determined to ban her from standing for the party at the election on July 4.

The stance sparked a furious backlash from Leftwingers and some other Labour activists against Sir Keir Starmer.

Sources said no final decision had been taken to resolve the row over the future of Ms Abbott, 70, who has represented Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987.

A spokesperson say they are “working to fill seats as quickly as possible in line with emergency selection procedures”.

The Guardian reported three Labour activists with links to Abbott’s constituency – Anntoinette Bramble, the deputy mayor of Hackney council; Sem Moema, the London assembly member for North East; and Mete Coban, a Labour councillor for Stoke Newington – were potentially in the running to replace her.

Her parliamentary colleague Kim Johnson said Ms Abbott was “a trailblazer & a hero of our movement”.

Writing on X, before the whip was restored, she said: “At a time when all our energy should be focussed on throwing the Tories out, this process looks nakedly factional.“Diane should have the whip restored now so she can stand as Labour's candidate in the GE.”

It comes after Sir Keir said the row over her suspension will be resolved “in due course”, as he faced questions over a report an investigation into her racism comments was completed five months ago.

Labour withdrew the whip from the long-standing MP in April 2023, after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experienced prejudice, but not racism.

BBC Newsnight reported Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had written to Ms Abbott in December 2023 to say it had concluded an inquiry into her comments.

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

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir on Tuesday again refused to say whether Ms Abbott would be able to stand for the party in the July 4 General Election.

Asked about the investigation finishing in December, the Labour leader told broadcasters: “The process overall is obviously a little longer than the fact-finding exercise.

“But in the end, this is a matter that will have to be resolved by the National Executive Committee and they’ll do that in due course.”

He added the NEC “will come to a decision in due course”.

Sir Keir has previously said he could not get involved in the case, which would be resolved by June 4, when the final list of candidates is decided.

BBC Newsnight said the NEC issued her with a “formal warning” for “engaging in conduct that was, in the opinion of the NEC, prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the Labour Party”.

Ms Abbott was expected to take part in an online e-learning module, which she completed in February, something that Labour’s chief whip allegedly acknowledged by email.

Ms Abbott was an independent MP when Parliament was prorogued on Friday, May 24, ahead of the General Election on July 4.

Following a farcical, factional process, she has had the whip restored. Her local party reselected her unanimously. That should be the end of the matter.

Momentum spokesman

Ms Abbott, who has been an MP since 1987, has said the process “has EVERYTHING to do with” Sir Keir.

The veteran MP was suspended after she responded to an Observer article headlined: “Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated.”

She wrote in a letter to the title: “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.”

Ms Abbott later said she wished to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them”.

The moves comes as former Labour leader - and a close ally of Ms Abbott on the left of the party - Jeremy Corbyn was expelled from the party after announcing he is standing as an independent candidate in the election.

Corbyn, who was blocked from standing again for his old party, will seek election in the Islington North constituency he has represented for 40 years.

He posted a video in which he said Ms Abbott “has been disgracefully treated by the Labour Party” and left “in limbo”.Campaign group Momentum said restoring the whip to Ms Abbott only to block her would be “outrageous”.

“Following a farcical, factional process, she has had the whip restored. Her local party reselected her unanimously. That should be the end of the matter.

“Anything less is a slap in the face to Diane, her constituents and the millions inspired by her example as Britain’s first black woman MP.”

Mr Corbyn has been suspended by Labour since 2020 after he refused to fully accept the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s findings that the party broke equality law when he was in charge and said antisemitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.