Diane Abbott’s local party and Labour officials will decide whether she can stand again at the next election, a shadow minister has said, after Abbott lost the Labour whip for her comments about racism.
Abbott made comments suggesting that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people were not subject to racism “all their lives”.
John Mann, the former Labour MP who is now a peer and advises the government on antisemitism, suggested it might be best if Abbott, an MP since 1987, did not stand again for her London constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
But Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the next steps would not be decided yet. “I’m sure that if she has made an apology, it is genuine. But it will be for the chief whip and the leader to decide what happens next,” he told Sky News.
Abbott prompted widespread condemnation with a letter published in the Observer on Sunday that criticised an article published the previous week describing the racism experienced by many Irish, Jewish and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in the UK.
Abbott’s letter said people from these groups did experience prejudice, but that this was not the same as racism, likening it to the treatment faced by “white people with points of difference, such as redheads”.
She swiftly lost the Labour whip pending an investigation. Abbott apologised, saying an “initial draft” of her thoughts had been sent for publication by accident.
Lord Mann told Sky: “I think we are seeing a rather sad end to what has been a very prominent political career. Has she not thought about her own constituents in this? What they must be thinking about what she said?
“It’s awful, it’s very, very sad. I think the best thing she could do is say she’s going to stand down at the next election.”
McFadden said the views in Abbott’s letter were “deeply wrong”. He said: “The chief whip of the party would have had no choice but to take the action that he took yesterday. When it comes to the awful history of racism, one thing we shouldn’t do is try to establish a hierarchy, or suggest that one group of people’s experience somehow counts more than others.
“When Keir Starmer became party leader three years ago, he was determined to turn the page on the culture that had come into the Labour party under the previous leadership. We’ve got to make sure that we underline our progress and that’s why yesterday’s suspension had to happen.”