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Are Diane Abbott’s days at Labour numbered?

Has Diane Abbott been treated unfairly? Credit: Getty

May 29, 2024 - 2:35pm

Future historians may yet marvel at the alacrity with which Sir Keir Starmer managed to first court those in his party he needed to win over with promises and blandishments, then turn on them with a ferocity tempered only by lawyerly disingenuity. Starmer and his “changed Labour Party” may be set to win the general election, but such a victory would come in spite of his managing to seriously antagonise much of his party’s traditional base. This is something that Tony Blair only managed to achieve during his second term, over the Iraq War.

It was reported last night that the Labour whip had finally been restored to Diane Abbott and that her disciplinary case, concerning her suspension over comments made about racial discrimination, had been completed months ago. After early reports that she would be barred from the party’s selection, which were reinforced by Abbott herself, Starmer came out this morning to state that no such decision has been made.

Whatever the truth, it is hard to deny that Abbott has been treated abominably. If she is expelled from Labour, she would be a high-profile casualty in a purge that has defenestrated numerous candidates whose faces don’t fit in the Starmer system. Her successor will not be chosen by local members, and may well already have been picked by a small cabal around the Labour leader. Abbott’s torment has gone on for years at the hands of sectarian party staffers, and she went so far as to attack Starmer for failing to apologise or take action against party officials who had described her in WhatsApp messages as “hideous” and “truly repulsive”.

It is worth remembering that Starmer’s late father nominated Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader in his local Surrey constituency party, something the potted hagiographies ignore. By all accounts, Rodney Starmer was angered by the serial disloyalty and perennial plotting of the parliamentary party against the ill-fated Left-winger. Of course, Corbyn has also been forced out of the Labour selection process in the constituency that he has represented since 1983.

Starmer’s Machiavellianism (or insecurity) belie the claims that somehow the purge of Labour’s ranks has “nothing to do with me”. Starmer Sr volunteered to local members: “My son gets on well with all of the Labour MPs. But he really cannot stand Diane Abbott.” If this is a true reflection of the present leader’s opinion of Abbott, it makes his claims of non-involvement in finishing off her political career even more hollow.

Labour’s internal “rules-based system” has broken down under Starmer. Those tempted to wave away all of this as an illustration of typical sectarian political infighting should perhaps consider that if Starmer and his circle are prepared to act in this way before reaching office, they may be even worse when they get there.


Mark Seddon is a former UN correspondent and New York bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He also worked in the speechwriting unit for the former secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon

MarkSeddon1962

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Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen
25 days ago

Diane Abbott was asked whether her days in the Labour party were numbered. “Yes,” she replied, ” I have about 36 days before the election comes around. Which is less than three weeks. No, hang on. More than 6 weeks I meant. No, wait – I mean about 2 months. Which is exactly 10% of a year. Obviously.”

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
25 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Hansen

Boris Johnson was First Lord of the Treasury while not knowing how percentages or probabilities worked.

Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen
25 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

So they are both innumerate buffoons. This article is about Diane Abbott. I made a light hearted comment about a previous gaffe she made. Don’t take everything so seriously. Life is too short. If the article was about Boris Johnson I wouldn’t reference Diane Abbott in any comment I made. Is your comment a mere piece of ‘whataboutery?”

Dr E C
Dr E C
22 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Hansen

She’s worse than that I fear. She’s a terrorist sympathiser & someone who’s failed spectacularly at the most important job any parent can do in this world: https://youtu.be/1t-xuaTDaKo?si=kIuIA_DIY1m5sdVf

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
24 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Hansen

Funny.

To be fair she is just one sentence away from another clanger.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
25 days ago

On Friday, Keir Starmer certainly lied about Diane Abbott. There is no way around that. Notice that she offended three ethnic groups in her original letter, for which she immediately apologised, but she had to do an online course about only one of them. Tell me again that there is no hierarchy of racism. Then look up Neil Coyle, of whom you would be forgiven for never having heard. And then tell me a third time. A Starmer Government is a terrifying prospect, but I have been predicting the fall of the Black Wall since he became Leader, which was long before he did this to the real, live, actual Diane Abbott. Bring on the hung Parliament.

R Wright
R Wright
25 days ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

Next time she’ll learn to confine her prejudices to taxi drivers and East London Finnish nurses as she did historically.

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
25 days ago

Labour has purged itself of Corbyn and the Abbotopotamus may be the next rubbish to go

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
25 days ago

They will both be in the next Parliament if they want to be. It is Wes Streeting, Angela Rayner, Thangam Debbonaire, Shabana Mahmood and Jess Phillips who are at serious risk of losing their seats.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
25 days ago

So Starmer’s father claims he gets on with all Labour MPs, apart from Abbott?
Rosie Duffield would beg to differ. Turns out, Starmer jnr. has inherited his selective memory from his father.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
25 days ago

“Her successor will not be chosen by local members, and may well already have been picked by a small cabal around the Labour leader ”

Isn’t that just how ‘the Left’ made sure its preferred candidates got seats? And how Rishi got his of course. And Rayner has been wooing the Muslim vote (all men naturally as befits a feminist) by blathering on about Palestine.

A root and branch renewal of the systems are required .

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago

It’s actually quite straightforward to deny that Abbott has been treated “abominably”.
She is the author of her own misfortune, quite literally. It was not some unguarded, off-the-cuff comment in a ‘hot mic’ situation that got her into trouble but a letter that she sat down to write and that – presumably – she re-read and tweaked before submitting it for publication.
That the Party leadership – desperate to prove it had moved on from Corbynism and from Labour’s shame that was the EHRC’s findings of institutional racism – saw the contents of that letter as unacceptable and worthy of investigation and possible sanction should have surprised no-one.
Diane Abbott would be a Labour candidate on 4 July but for her own incomprehensible (one might even say reprehensible) attitude towards Jews.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Perhaps you have some other evidence on her attitude towards Jews, but she was removed from Labour for the following –

‘ “Irish, Jewish and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice” which she said is “similar to racism”.

The letter added: “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.” ‘

There’s not a lot wrong with that, aside from strategic naivety. Words have a meaning and racism is prejudice based on ethnicity. Antisemitism has a racial component but is also different. Similarly, travellers may have a different ethnic background and so prejudice towards them may, at times, have a racial component, but there is more to it The Irish are white so that is clearly not racism (unless the abuse is coming from a non-white ethnicity).

Given that Diane Abbott has likely suffered as much racist abuse than anyone else in the country, it’s probably a sensitive topic for her to see others claiming racism when it is actually something else. I even recall one guy, a spokesman for either the Irish or travellers, saying that what they suffered wasn’t ‘mere prejudice, it’s racism’, as though somehow racism isn’t a type of prejudice – he didn’t seem to understand what the words meant.

I’ve no liking for Diane Abbott but this was clearly used as a means to get her out of the way, presumably due to her hard left politics.

Peter B
Peter B
25 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Might I suggest that Ms Abbott is topping the leader boards for handing it out as well as taking it ? I’d have more sympathy if she didn’t indulge in the same things she accuses others of.
Yes, she’s not being treated fairly in the manner of her removal right now. But she is the author of her own fate every bit as much as Boris Johnson was.
Starmer will be 1 for 2 if he pulls this off – he failed to fire Angela Rayner when he wanted to and has messed that up a second time.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Anyone who thinks Jews experiencing anti-semitic abuse are merely “claiming racism when it is actually something else” is at best misguided. At worst…well…we can all make our own assessment.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

But it’s not racism, it’s antisemitism…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Keep trying. You’re *this* close to getting it.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I’ve set my position out. None of the responses have been able to point out the flaw in it (Peter even seems to agree she’s been unfairly treated) and have relied on the strategic error of the quote or other things she’s apperently said to justify her suspension.

Dr E C
Dr E C
24 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Were Nazi Germany’s racial purity laws based on race or ‘something else’ do you think?

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
24 days ago
Reply to  Dr E C

Antisemitism, do you think? Which I’ve already said contains a racial aspect.

Do people just not understand words anymore?

Dr E C
Dr E C
22 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

I know. You wrote ‘As for antisemitism, whilst it does contain a racial element, there’s more to being Jewish than ethnicity alone’. But people weren’t sent to concentration camps in the 1940s for being practising or cultural Jews. Non-practising Jews were sent there, Jews who’d converted to Christianity, people who only had one Jewish grandparent & were otherwise ‘Aryan’ etc. That’s a racial hatred & Abbot’s a hate-filled bigot.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
22 days ago
Reply to  Dr E C

That’s a one example of antisemitism. There are other instances of antisemitism than that which occurred in 30s and 40s Germany.

Chipoko
Chipoko
22 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Anti-semitism = racism. Period!

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
22 days ago
Reply to  Chipoko

So if a white person abuses a white Jew because they’re Jewish, that’s racism to you? Why is it not simply antisemitism?

Or to use one of the other examples Abbot used, if an English person abused an Irish person for being Irish, is that also racism? What about abuse of a traveller of English ancestry by an English non-traveller?

Chipoko
Chipoko
21 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Blah, blah, blah! Yawn!

Peter B
Peter B
24 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

To be clear: I’m not defending what she said or her behaviour. I’m only saying that this doesn’t sound like due process and the “independent process” Starmer keeps claiming it is.
Summary: she’s guilty, but still deserves a fair day in court.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Seems she’s had her day ‘in court’ and can now stand for Labour again(I’m not sure if this means she was found guilty or not), if she still wants to.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
24 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

You’ve hit the nail on the head, but not the one you supposed. The word racism obviously means different things to different people. This needs to be sorted or we will be constantly at cross purposes. I for one never imagined it was merely colour on colour.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
24 days ago

Thanks, a well observed point. Originally it was, as the name implies, about race. Race is an outdated term these days but basically it did start out as prejudice against people of a different colour. Here’s the first definition I found –

‘prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.’

But it’s meaning does seem to have drifted, as I alluded to in my original reply, so that, for example, some Irish people (who are clearly not a different race/ethnicity to other people of western European origin) believing that prejudice against them is racism. It’s not, or at least not by the original meaning. Maybe this whole debate is just about linguistics? Can I ask, as you don’t consider it to be about ethnicity, if you’re fairly young?

Language drift does seem to be causing a lot of issues. I sometimes think transgender debates could go a long way to being resolved if terms like gender, sex, biology or him/her were clearly defined.

As for antisemitism, whilst it does contain a racial element, there’s more to being Jewish than ethnicity alone, hence why it has a specific name. If the language has changed then so be it I guess, but what name do you then give to the specific type of prejudice Diane Abbott has suffered? And people ought to be able to understand that if the name of the prejudice you have suffered from all your life is appropriated, perhaps unwittingly, you might feel aggrieved about that and want to point it out.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
22 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

You.have stated that racism cannot be experienced by white people! The definition and the law, don’t agree with you.

It is also a soft patronising form of racism in itself to constantly give a free pass to poor behaviour from “ethnic minorities” or as we now say “the global majority”.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
22 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

No, I haven’t. I’ve even clarified that very point on occasion e.g.

“The Irish are white so that is clearly not racism (unless the abuse is coming from a non-white ethnicity).”

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
24 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

To be fair I would’ve fired her a long time ago.

The car crash of an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC would’ve been enough of a reason.

She is a clown car of a politician. Just one sentence away from damaging the Labour Party.

j watson
j watson
25 days ago

Unherd, as a Right Wing journal, v frustrated Starmer got no time for the Corbynistas. Really closes down an attack angle the Right would v much welcome. Got Bojo to victory in 2019 after all. So the Author switches tack – how dreadful the way Starmer treated her/them.
He also early on refers to Labour’s traditional base. Alot would argue the Corbynistas never represented the true Labour base. They may have represented an element of the further left Activists but as we all know Activists rarely represent the basis on which the public supports a party.
Starmer shown some mettle in purging Labour of these factions. That’ll do him no harm in this campaign. Diane does deserve alot of respect though – the most abused politician in recent UK history. Many would have cracked. But unfortunately politics can be brutal and she’s not an electoral asset. Starmer been consistent since he first became an MP – you accomplish nothing without power. He wants to accomplish things and not lead a debating society. That’s good.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
25 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Are Tom McTague and Terry Eagleton “right wing”? Using such nonsensical epithets highlights only the poverty of your argument.

j watson
j watson
24 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Simon Jenkins writes a column for the Guardian. I quite enjoy it although often disagree. Do you think the Guardian is Right wing LL? Let’s tease out your argument a little more.

Peter B
Peter B
24 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Fallacious argument, not helped by the fact that Simon Jenkins isn’t “right wing”.
If we think the world can be so easily divided up into two distinct groups (“left” and “right”) and that everything is that simple and can be labelled as such, we probably shouldn’t be reading UnHerd. Haven’t the last few elections taught us anything ?

j watson
j watson
24 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Do you know what PB I can well imagine your Right now well to the Right of likes of Jenkins.
So how about Kay Balls? Regular Guardian contributor. Thus in yours and Lad’s opinion Guardian not a left-ish publication?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
22 days ago
Reply to  j watson

It’s authoritarian left, not ‘left’ as in ‘live and let live’. I dislike authoritarianism no matter which direction it comes from. Note ‘authoritarian’ is not the same as ‘authoritative’.

R Wright
R Wright
25 days ago

Abbott is a despicable anti-English racist so I will applaud Starmer’s purging here. Given Mao “on balance did more harm than good” in her eyes I assume she will understand the necessity of the Party being refreshed.

Chipoko
Chipoko
22 days ago
Reply to  R Wright

Ha ha! Starmer didn’t have the guts to boot her into the long grass! Anti-White racism will continue to flourish in the Labour Party.

Edward Seymour
Edward Seymour
24 days ago

Please remember what Abbot actually said in a considered letter. There is no doubt that it was fundamentally antisemitic. Jewish people really do suffer more discrimination than ginger haired people. I’m sorry but an adult woman who is a member of our legislature should not need a 2 hour Zoom course to know this. She is frankly a disgrace and at 70 years of age passed retirement.

Simon Adams
Simon Adams
24 days ago

I had the distinct impression hearing her speak today that she has some kind of neurological condition, maybe early stages of Parkinson’s or dementia. I probably shouldn’t share speculation like that, and I have no medical expertise to base that on. However it may mean that it’s not ‘just’ the inappropriate comments she has made that make this ‘complicated’.

Of course I hope I’m wrong as you wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and there is a good chance I’ve completely misread what I saw.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
23 days ago
Reply to  Simon Adams

No. Not wrong. I noticed it too. She couldn’t hold the mic still. Hope it was just rage not anything more sinister.