Diane Abbott selection ‘farce’ as she awaits fate – but our readers back her

© UK Parliament/Roger Harris

Diane Abbott has said she is “delighted” to have had the Labour whip restored but is “very dismayed” about reports suggesting she has been barred from standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election.

But Sky News reports that Keir Starmer said on Wednesday afternoon that “no decision has been taken to bar [Abbott] going forward”, and shadow minister Darren Jones even suggested at a press conference she could speak to the party about re-standing.

Labour faces heavy pressure to allow the first Black woman elected to parliament to re-stand however in her Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency, with a rally held at Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday night. A LabourList poll of some 2,500 of our readers saw 75% say she should be able to restand, another 11% say her local party should decide, 2% say the party or whips should decide, and only 11% say she should be blocked.

READ MORE: Labour selections in retirement, suspension and target seats: See filled and unfilled seats in our election tracker

The veteran MP said in a statement on X on Wednesday: “Naturally I am delighted to have the Labour whip restored and to be a member of the [Parliamentary Labour Party]. Thank you to all those who supported me along the way.

“I will be campaigning for a Labour victory. But I am very dismayed that numerous reports suggest I have been barred as a candidate.”

The news came after a long suspension and on the eve of the general election.

The party declined to respond when asked if she would be allowed to stand for Labour. The Times reported party sources suggesting Labour will bar her from standing, prompting a wave of fresh criticism over the party’s handling of the case.

It follows another claim this week that the investigation that prompted her suspension had been wrapped up months ago, though Labour has also not responded to that allegation.

Train drivers’ union ASLEF also published a joint letter to Starmer from its general secretary Mick Whelan and the general secretaries of five other unions affiliated to Labour calling for Abbott to be confirmed as the candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

The letter is dated May 25th, prior to confirmation that the Labour whip had been restored to Abbott. Alongside Whelan, it has been signed by the TSSA’s Maryam Eslamdoust, Unite’s Sharon Graham, NUM’s Chris Kitchen, CWU’s Dave Ward and the FBU’s Matt Wrack.

VOTE HERE: Should Diane Abbott be allowed to stand again for Labour?

John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair often supportive of Keir Starmer, said the briefing suggesting the first black female MP would not be able to restand was “disgraceful”.

Jess Barnard, a national executive committee member on the left of the party, called the situation a “farce”. Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire said he hoped she could stand again.

Neal Lawson, director of cross-party campaign group Compass, said of reports she could be barred: “Even for those who don’t share her politics, it’s sad to see that the Labour’s so-called broad church is now so narrow it no longer has space for a figure like Diane Abbott.

“Meanwhile, it appears to have no qualms about welcoming in former Tories like Natalie Elphicke who clearly don’t share its values.”

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting faced questions about whether the party had “stitched her up” on the BBC’s Today programme on Wednesday.

He said it was a decision for Labour’s national executive committee, and declined to say if he wanted her to remain as an MP.

But he added: “Keir Starmer when he talked about improving standards in the Labour party, he really meant it. I don’t know the specific factors that apply in Diane Abbott’s case. I was pleased actually that her suspension was lifted and the whip was restored.”

Pressed on the suggestion the investigation wrapped up months ago and why Labour figures had not disclosed this in recent broadcast interviews, he said he would not rely on “hearsay”.

What did Diane Abbott do to be suspended?

Abbott had the party whip suspended in April last year for suggesting in a letter to The Observer that Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers “are not all their lives subject to racism” as Black people are.

Abbott apologised and said she wished to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw” her remarks, which caused a significant backlash. A party spokesperson called the remarks “deeply offensive”.

But Abbott previously told LabourList that she suspected the party of using the disciplinary process to “bar me from standing at the next election”, despite her being selected by local members.

“I wrote in September that my suspension was a factional manoeuvre aimed at silencing a Black woman on the left, a critic of the line of the current leadership. Nothing has substantially changed since.”

Read more of our 2024 general election coverage here.

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