Abbott becomes Mother of the House and Hoyle back as Speaker as MPs meet

James Moules
Credit: Sky News

Diane Abbott has become Mother of the House – the title given to the longest continuously serving female MP – as the Parliament elected last week convened to elect a Speaker.

The long-serving Labour MP, who represents the north London constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, joined Father of the House Sir Edward Leigh in the formalities that kick off parliamentary proceedings for the coming years on Tuesday.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle paid tribute to her ahead of his re-election as Speaker, saying: “You’ve served for 37 years, and broken many glass ceilings along the way.”

Abbott, who was first elected to parliament in 1987, was the first Black woman to become a Member of Parliament.

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A veteran left-winger was a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn during his leadership, she served as Shadow Home Secretary between 2016 and 2020, but controversially remained suspended until the early part of the election campaign.

In his first speech before the House as Prime Minister, Keir Starmer also paid tribute to Abbott. He said she “had done so much in her career over so many years to fight for a Parliament that truly represents modern Britain”.

Starmer also praised the diversity of the new parliament, which he noted is the most diverse by race and gender in the country’s history and has the largest cohort of LGBT+ MPs of any parliament in the world.

Shortly afterwards, Hoyle was re-elected as Speaker of the House of Commons despite being embroiled in a recent row over Gaza votes, with two colleagues strong-arming him towards the Speaker’s Chair as per parliamentary tradition.

Sunak praises Abbott

Former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also then made his first appearance at the dispatch box as leader of the opposition.

He also paid tribute to Abbott: “We have our differences on policy, but no one can deny the Right Honourable Lady’s important role in this House and the inspiration for so many young women of colour that she has provided.

He congratulated Starmer too. “In our politics we can argue vigorously…but still respect each other….we are all motivated by our desire to serve our constituents, our country and advance the principles that we honourably believe in.”

Abbott in turn congratulated Lindsay Hoyle upon his re-election as Speaker, saying: “He has been a Speaker through tumultuous times, but he has never failed to serve with grace and expertise and fairness.”

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