Dear Diane Abbott: Congratulations on your election to the Labour Party national executive, says an old comrade. Now give 'em hell

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Indy Lifestyle Online
WELL, EH, EH. So you big up yuhself and you eleck fe sit pon de white people platform. Mek I send out nuff respeck from the Muswell Hill massive.

Actually, though that's the way they might tell it in your constituency, it probably won't translate too well in the national executive. They're not used to our kind. For the 15 years you and I have been friends, one or other of us has regularly turned up as the 'first black' this, that or the other. Every time it's a triumph. The suspicion is that we're there because of our colour - what's remarkable is that it's taken so long for a black woman to be elected by Labour's grassroots voters. But let all that pass. You should revel in your victory.

Of course, I'm going to offer you advice. I bet you'll laugh a big Jamaican laugh. Even before we knew each other, reports of the feisty black woman from Newnham College, Cambridge, were turning up in my laboratory in London. When we both joined the TV world, we swapped stories of how, when we turned up on location, people would assume we were cleaners or porters. I was less surprised than you were when one of your barnstorming speeches swayed the Hackney party into selecting you in place of an elderly white trade union war horse.

So you've had the odd stumble. However romantic, you shouldn't have mentioned bonking in a field. But being an MP is what you do well. I've watched you sort out ministers with a heavyweight punch hiding behind that guileless charm. Which other Labour mother has so gained the confidence of the other side that she gets to celebrate the christening of her son in the home of a cabinet minister? At your son's party, you cheekily mixed black and white, backyard and aristo, rebel and Tory right-winger there in the heart of the English establishment.

People will judge all of us by your behaviour. Thank God, in the Blairite Labour Party you are allowed to dress like a smart black woman again. You can throw away some of that charmless left-wing baggage and become in public as you are in private, the sort of person my daughters can look up to.

And don't be afraid to tell it like it is to our own community. For example, giving drugs to kids can't be excused by racism, and we need prominent black people to say so, again and again.

And don't allow yourself to be forced to speak for every black person, no matter how many times they turn to you and say patronisingly: 'Tell me, Diane, what are the blacks saying on this one?'

You may understand us better, but you're there because you're you - an individual. I know what you'll do - cause trouble for all and sundry. It'll be interesting to see just how open the new Labour Party is. How it treats you could be the strongest signal we could get.

Kick it.

Trevor Phillips

(Photograph omitted)

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