Diane Abbott has remarked that “Keir Starmer is entitled to say we can’t sign up to Stop the War”, after tensions over a statement signed by 11 Labour left MPs last week, but also pointed out that “Tony Blair never made that stipulation”.
At the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting on Monday evening, Keir Starmer said: “Let me be very clear. There will be no place in this party for false equivalence between the actions of Russia and the actions of NATO.”
11 Labour MPs were last week threatened with the removal of the party whip if they did not remove their names from a Stop the War statement criticising NATO. All of the Labour backbenchers swiftly pulled their signatures.
Commenting on Starmer’s remarks to the PLP following the tensions over the Stop the War statement, Abbott told BBC’s Politics Live today: “I’m a loyal supporter of Keir Starmer and it will never come to that.”
Asked why she signed the statement, Abbott replied: “That was before Russia invaded Ukraine. That was a letter superseded by events and we were happy to take our names off.”
On whether she believes Ukraine could never join NATO, as the statement criticised the expansion of the alliance, the MP said: “No, I’m not saying that.” She added: “Having a debate around NATO strategy is one thing, attacking NATO is another.”
Abbott later said: “Everybody in the Labour Party supports a defensive alliance. I think that the Tory Party needs to consider its own relationship with Putin and his oligarchs in the past, the donations they’ve taken in the past.”
But the Hackney MP did later say: “Those of us on the left of the Labour Party will continue to speak out for peace and negotiated settlement.”
Abbott said: “I would just point out that we’re now being told on the left of the party that we can’t support Stop the War. We could even support Stop the War under Tony Blair, at the time of the Iraq war. So it’s interesting that we can’t support Stop the War now.”
She added: “Keir Starmer is entitled to say we can’t sign up to Stop the War. All I’m saying is, Tony Blair never made that stipulation. That’s all I’m saying.”
Asked if she felt threatened by the leadership over the issue, Abbott told the BBC: “On the question of Iraq, we were proved to be right. On this, of course we support Keir Starmer.
“But I think that, for some of us, our commitment for representing people who do not have representation in this country, and for speaking out on what we think is right, is a lifelong thing.”
"Those of us on the left of the Labour Party will continue to speak out for peace," says Labour MP Diane Abbott
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) March 1, 2022