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UK Politics

Diane Abbott to stand for shadow cabinet

Defeated Labour leadership contender Diane Abbott today confirmed she is standing for election to the shadow cabinet, as she attacked "ludicrous caricatures" of Ed Miliband as "Red Ed".

Ms Abbott, who came last in the race to succeed Gordon Brown, paid tribute to Mr Miliband as a "gifted and charismatic leader" and said she would work "collectively and responsibly and as part of a team" if elected to his top team.

And drawing on her left-wing credentials, she insisted Labour's new leader was firmly part of the "mainstream centre" who would return the party to power.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP joked that she had spent more time with her fellow leadership hopefuls than her own family over the past four months during what she called an "extraordinarily collegiate and comradely" campaign.

And ahead of Mr Miliband's first conference speech as leader, she told delegates: "Already we are seeing ludicrous caricatures of him in the press.

"Let me just say a word on this Red Ed caricature. I'm a woman of the left, and let me say to you the Red Ed thing is nonsense. Ed Miliband is a gifted and charismatic leader of the mainstream centre who will lead us to victory at the next election but will never leave this party behind."

Her comments drew loud applause from the conference audience in Manchester, before she confirmed that she would stand for the shadow cabinet.

While Ms Abbott pledged to work as part of a team, she promised delegates she would remain the "Diane Abbott this party knows".

"Having come through a very collegiate leadership election which I believe helped to build the party, and believing that it is vital that we all pull together to come back into power as quickly as possible, I have chosen to put my hat in the ring for the shadow cabinet," she said to more applause.

"I will work, as I worked in the leadership campaign, collectively and responsibly and as part of a team - but still the Diane Abbott this party knows."

Despite having been knocked out in the first round of the final leadership results, Ms Abbott received a standing ovation from delegates at the end of today's speech.

Ms Abbott, who only made it on to the leadership ballot paper with support from some David Miliband backers, praised party chiefs for allowing an "inclusive" campaign.

She said her West Indian immigrant parents would have been "so proud to see their daughter contend for the leadership of one of the greatest socialist parties in western Europe, and the party they loved".

And she quoted from Ted Kennedy's 1980 concession speech following his defeat for the Democratic presidential candidacy to Jimmy Carter, saying: "For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. But for all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Ms Abbott also spoke out against "ideological" Government cuts, saying: "It is the Tories' intention to cut back the welfare state once and for all."

While the need to restore the economy was "front and centre", it should not "marginalise" other core issues, she argued.

"It is no time to step back from our commitment to equality, whether it is a commitment to gay marriage, whether it is the rights of the disabled, or whether it is our commitment on women's rights," she told delegates.

But she called on Labour to work with the Government on reducing prisoner numbers as she cautioned against attacking the Conservatives from the right.

"If the Tories - if, and it's a big if - if they are serious about putting fewer people in prison, we should be prepared to work with them on that," she said.

"If it's not just a cheap excuse for cuts, we should be prepared to think about that.

"We should at all times resist the temptation to attack the Tories on criminal justice matters from the right because there is no future for our party in that."

On civil liberties and human rights Labour should be proud of its record in office but "humble" about mistakes, such as the proposed 90-day pre-charge detention.

And she said the party should address the "underlying issues" behind immigration concerns, such as a failure to build enough council houses.