Diane Abbott fury as Starmer suggests her suspension is nothing to do with him

More than a year after Ms Abbott was suspended, Labour will decide whether she can be reinstated in time for the 4 July general election

Archie Mitchell
Friday 24 May 2024 10:54
Keir Starmer sets 4 June deadline for Diane Abbott investigation

Diane Abbott has attacked Sir Keir Starmer for claiming her suspension from the party is nothing to do with him.

The suspended MP, who represented Labour for 36 years until last April, said the long-running investigation into her is entirely up to the Labour leader

“The decision about whether to let Diane Abbott back into Labour has everything to do with him,” a message posted on her X account said.

Diane Abbott was suspended last April for an article she wrote about Jewish people
Diane Abbott was suspended last April for an article she wrote about Jewish people (AP)

It came as Sir Keir confirmed Labour’s investigation into Ms Abbott will be completed by 4 June in what will be a make or break moment for the veteran MP.

“It’s not a question of what I want... the days when the leader of the Labour Party rolls up his or her sleeves and gets involved in disciplinary cases are well and truly over,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He added: “That’s what Jeremy Corbyn did and it ended very badly.”

The Labour leader said his party will have to resolve the long-running probe “very soon now”. “We have a cutoff date, I think it is 4 June… we have a process in place and we will complete it reasonably soon now,” he told LBC.

Sir Keir added that Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) would decide in the end.

An investigation into the long-serving black MP has been ongoing since her suspension last April following an article she wrote about Jewish people, with pressure mounting on the party over why it has been taking so long.

Ms Abbott had the whip suspended last April after writing a letter suggesting Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as some other minorities.

She immediately apologised and said the letter published in The Observer had been an “initial draft” sent by mistake.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and mother of the House Harriet Harman are among those who have said they want her allowed back into the party.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said she wants Ms Abbott back in the party
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said she wants Ms Abbott back in the party (Getty Images)

Speculation is mounting that Ms Abbott hopes to have the Labour whip restored so she can retire at the election as a Labour MP, having been elected for the party in Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987.

If she does not have the party whip back by the 4 June deadline, Ms Abbott will be forced into retirement as an independent MP or will have to stand against the party she represented for three and a half decades.

Labour restoring the whip to Ms Abbott would be seen as an olive branch to MPs and activists on the left, who have long criticised the probe into her as a sham.

But it would open Sir Keir up to charges that he has failed to sufficiently change the Labour Party from the Jeremy Corbyn years, a legacy the Labour leader is keen to distance himself from.

The Independent has been told Ms Abbott was offered the Labour whip back but refused because she would have had to undergo antisemitism training.

She has said the investigation is “fraudulent” and is being used to “bully” her.

Ms Abbott has given no indication that she intends to stand down at the next election.

Sir Keir came under renewed pressure to restore the whip to Ms Abbott after his decision to welcome right-wing Tory defector Natalie Elphicke into the Labour fold.

“If the tent is big enough for her, I feel sure that Britain’s first Black woman MP, who has sustained more racist and misogynist abuse than anyone, will have her whip restored urgently,” Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti told The Independent.

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