Diane Abbott: You Ask The Questions

The Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington answers your questions, such as 'Is Brown finished as PM?' and 'Is Cameron right about black fathers?'
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The Independent Online

After Glasgow East, is Gordon Brown finished? If so, who should be Labour leader instead?

DEBBIE HARRISON

Wigan

No he is not finished. It was a bad by-election but the Tories came back from a series of even worse results to win in 1992.

What should Labour do to get people back on their side?

ALEX SWEETLAND

via email

We could start by dropping ID cards, scrapping Trident and pulling out of Iraq. We could follow that up by revamping the taxation system to make it fairer, i.e. taking more low-paid people out of the taxation system altogether and putting up taxes on the super-wealthy.

Thinking about what happened to the Tories after 1997, would you agree it would be better for Labour to lose the next election?

MARK CRAIG

Peterborough

It is a very dangerous thing to give up on an election. We could be out of power for a generation.

Would you call yourself a rebel MP?

KATHRYN HART

Swindon

No. I almost always vote with the Government. I even voted to abolish the 10p tax rate!

All I ever seem to hear from you is criticism of the Government. Would you actually prefer the Tories? It seems like it.

KIMBERLEY BAYLIFFE

Hull

Where my government is right, I support it. And that is most of the time. I always vote for Labour manifesto commitments, for instance. Where it is wrong, I vote against. If all MPs did that, we would be a much better-governed country. For example, we would never have gone to war with Iraq.

Which political achievement are you most proud of? Which vote do you most regret casting?

LORNA WRIGHT

Edinburgh

I am very proud of the investment in schools and hospitals in Hackney. The vote I regret casting was when I voted to abolish the 10p tax rate. I believed the Government when they said that nobody would lose out!

You spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on taxis. Why shouldn't I be shocked? How can MPs regain public trust on this issue?

THEO MARKSON

Dorking

I spent £2,235 last year on taxis. That is the equivalent of two taxis home to Hackney each week. I spend the money on taxis because (unlike most MPs) I do not drive and I travel on public transport most of the time. But when I work late, I get a cab.

Who's your worst political enemy?

JONATHAN WARNER

Llanelli

There are too many to single any one out.

The dust has settled after the Mayoral elections. Are you any more convinced by Boris Johnson?

AGATA BALAGOVA

London

No. But let's wait and see.

Why did you say having children out of wedlock was a mistake? Do you regret it, or are you really stuck in the 1950s?

TINA RICHARDS

Birmingham

I have never said that having children out of wedlock was a mistake. I have often said that being a single mother is hard. I should know – I am one.

Why has knife crime become such a problem in London?

DAVID JENSEN

St Neots

As it happens, Glasgow has the highest level of knife crime in the country. Knife crime, gun crime and the gang culture all have the same roots: educational underachievement; family breakdown and the collapse of manufacturing, which used to employ so many blue-collar males.

I read an article where you said that most men were boring and obsessed with themselves. Should I be offended?

GARETH FAIRLOP

Burnley

I think I said that some men are self-obsessed. You should not be offended. No doubt it does not apply to you.

You obviously don't care about free speech given your campaign against lads' mags. Aren't there more important things to worry about?

CHARLIE PAYNE

Bournemouth

I do not object to lads' mags. My campaign was against newsagents being forced to stock them, who did not want to. Also I am against lads' mags being displayed at child's eye level. They should be on the top shelf with the other porn.

Do you mind that the row over you sending your son to private school stopped people taking you seriously? Do you understand why people minded so much?

ED STANNING

via email

I was abused for months for sending my son to private school. Obviously I minded. But my son matters to me more.

How did it feel to know you were the only black woman in Parliament again when Oona King lost to George Galloway?

PETER WENDLE

Birmingham

Lonely.

Your brother got a hard time from the police after he was carjacked. Is that kind of thing still common for black men in Britain?

LISA PARKER

Shrewsbury

Unfortunately his experiences are not uncommon.

How does your race affect your work in the Commons? Do you ever come across prejudice from MPs?

DANIEL ROSS

via email

Because I am black, black people all over the country consider me their MP. This creates a considerable workload. I used to come across veiled prejudice from colleagues in the early days.

As the black proportion of our population is so much smaller than in the US, isn't it ridiculous to harp on about how there isn't a British Barack Obama?

SIMON WEBER

Southport

You are right. It is ridiculous.

Is David Cameron right about black fathers?

KERRY HARMAN

Manchester

There is an issue about black fathers. It is discussed all the time within the black community. But he needs to be careful lecturing black people about it. It is more complex than he seems to think.

Are you embarrassed to be so well known when all you do is snipe from the back benches and appear on TV?

FRED AUBREY

Luton

I am probably well known because for most of the past 20 years I have been the only black woman in Parliament. And that is scarcely my fault.

How can your media work not affect your constituency work?

JANE PEARSON

Bridlington

I do a weekly programme This Week. There is no rehearsal and it goes out live. So I go to the studio at 11pm. The show goes out between 11.30pm and 12.30am and I am home by 1.30am. I would not be doing any constituency work between 11pm and 1.30am on a Thursday.

Are you the Labour Ann Widdecombe?

NIGEL KEFFORD

Gloucester

I like to think that I am the Labour Diane Abbott.

Andrew Neil is the most ridiculous TV presenter I've ever seen, and the guests on This Week are just as absurd. How can you bear it?

ROBIN KINLOCH

Petersfield

Andrew can defend himself. But as far as the guests are concerned, we try not to have just the standard white male middle-aged political pundits. Sometimes it does not work. But we often have people whom you would never have guessed were interested in politics, expressing thoughtful views.

You went to school with Michael Portillo. What was he like then? Did you get on?

DESMOND PARRY

London

We did not actually go to school together. I was at Harrow County Grammar School for Girls. He was at Harrow County Grammar School for Boys. I remember him as completely inoffensive.

Who would you pick for a desert island companion: Portillo or Neil? No copping out please.

SHEENA RICH

Nottingham

Neither. Denzel Washington please.

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