Jeremy Corbyn will survive as Labour leader even if we lose both by-elections, Diane Abbott insists

Key Shadow Cabinet ally also reveals the terrible abuse she receives – 'being called a bitch, a n****r, rape threats, people saying I should be hanged'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 19 February 2017 13:25
Jeremy Corbyn will survive as Labour leader even if we lose both by-elections, Diane Abbott insists

Jeremy Corbyn will survive as Labour leader even if the party crashes to disastrous by-election defeat this week, Diane Abbott has insisted.

The party will still “go forward”, Mr Corbyn’s key Shadow Cabinet ally said – predicting he will lead Labour into the 2020 general election.

The comments came as Ms Abbott revealed the full horror of the escalating abuse she receives – including “being called a bitch, a n****r, rape threats, people saying I should be hanged”.

The Shadow Home Secretary called for a Parliamentary inquiry into the abuse levelled at MPs, in order to force internet providers to crack down on it.

Some people in the Labour party have suggested Mr Corbyn will be plunged into a fresh leadership crisis if it fails to cling onto its seats in Copeland and Stoke-on-Central on Thursday.

In Stoke, the threat comes from Ukip, primarily because of the Midlands constituency’s support for Brexit in last year’s EU referendum.

The Conservatives are confident they are winning over Labour voters in Copeland, Cumbria, and can claim an extraordinarily rare by-election gain for a governing party.

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Ms Abbott admitted: “These are difficult by-elections, they’re going to be quite tight.”

But she insisted: “We are hopeful of winning both of them but it’s really important that every Labour supporter comes out to vote.

“And if we lose one or we lose both, I think the party will go forward. It has to go forward.”

Pressed if there would be any threat to Mr Corbyn’s leadership if defeat came, Ms Abbott said: “No, no. I mean there are people who have been opposed to Jeremy from the very beginning, I’m not one of them and I think we have to move forward.”

She also claimed: “The more people get to see Jeremy and hear him... I’m confident the polls will improve.”

That view is not backed up by Mr Corbyn’s personal ratings, which have dropped to a net minus 35 – matching those of Michael Foot at the same stage of his leadership in the early 1980s.

One poll last week found support for Labour had dropped by three percentage points to 27 per cent, while backing for the Conservatives rose three points to 40 per cent, as the Brexit Bill passed through the Commons.

However, in Stoke, the Ukip leader Paul Nuttall’s campaign is in deep trouble after he admitted he had not – as claimed – lost close personal friends in the Hillsborough tragedy.

In Copeland, the Prime Minister was criticised for failing to offer any guarantees about the future of maternity care or nuclear power – two dominant issues in the constituency.

Meanwhile, Ms Abbott revealed her staff were scared to let her walk around her North London constituency on her own.

And she spoke of “almost daily abuse, being called a bitch, a nigger, rape threats, people saying I should be hanged – and it reached a particular pitch in the last few weeks”.

“Now you can press a button and threaten to rape somebody and the more some of these guys see this stuff online the more they feel encouraged and emboldened,” Ms Abbott said.

“And it’s become turbo-charged and it’s become worse – and it’s almost as if they want to drive some of us out of politics.”

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