Diane Abbott ‘to be banned from standing for Labour’ as it emerges race investigation finished five months ago

Sir Keir Starmer had said a decision on whether Diane Abbott could stand as a Labour MP at the general election would be made ‘in due course’

Archie Mitchell
Wednesday 29 May 2024 01:40 BST
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Keir Starmer sets 4 June deadline for Diane Abbott investigation

Diane Abbott is to reportedly be banned from standing as a Labour candidate at the general election - as it emerged a party investigation into her finished five months ago.

Sir Keir Starmer said on Tuesday that the party’s National Executive Committee will decide whether Ms Abbott, the longest-serving Black MP, will be able to stand for the party in the 4 July general election.

But The Times is reporting that the party’s leadership has already made its decision on the 70-year-old, who was suspended last April over a letter she wrote suggesting Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as some other minorities.

It comes as the Press Association said she had been given back the Labour whip on Tuesday - which sources to The Times said would allow her to leave politics “with dignity” rather than stand again for the party.

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Diane Abbott had the whip withdrawn in 2023
Diane Abbott had the whip withdrawn in 2023 (PA)

Ms Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, under Jeremy Corbyn, had apologised over her comments and said the letter had been an “initial draft”.

The investigation into Ms Abbott was completed in December, claimed a Newsnight report on Tuesday that said she was given a formal warning over her conduct and required to complete an antisemitism awareness course, which she completed in February.

A source close to Ms Abbott told the BBC programme she had not been told whether she would be allowed to stand for the Labour Party in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, where she was elected in 1987.

Keir Starmer said a decision would be made in due course on whether Ms Abbott will be allowed to stand again as a Labour MP
Keir Starmer said a decision would be made in due course on whether Ms Abbott will be allowed to stand again as a Labour MP (PA)

But speculation she would not be selected to stand as a Labour candidate appeared to be confirmed by media reports on Tuesday evening - although the party would not confirm when approached by The Independent.

In the letter which saw her suspended, published in The Observer, Ms Abbott suggested Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as some other minorities.

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

Angela Rayner is among those saying they want her let back into the Labour fold
Angela Rayner is among those saying they want her let back into the Labour fold (Getty )

If Ms Abbott’s suspension is not lifted by the 4 June deadline, Ms Abbott will be forced into retirement or will have to stand as an independent 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.

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

On Tuesday, Sir Keir told broadcasters: “The process overall is obviously a little longer than the fact-finding exercise. But in the end, this is a matter that will have to be resolved by the National Executive Committee and they’ll do that in due course.”

Despite the investigation into Ms Abbott ending months ago, Sir Keir had said in an interview with LBC on Friday that the probe was “not finally resolved”.

Richard Holden, chairman of the Conservative Party, said: “It’s inconceivable that Starmer, the Labour Leader, wasn’t told the process had finished and a warning issued. No ifs, no buts, this isn’t another flip-flop or yet another policy u-turn.”

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

Campaign group Momentum said restoring the whip to Ms Abbott only to block her would be “outrageous”.

It said: “Following a farcical, factional process, she has had the whip restored. Her local party reselected her unanimously. That should be the end of the matter.

“Anything less is a slap in the face to Diane, her constituents and the millions inspired by her example as Britain’s first black woman MP.”

Mr Corbyn posted a video in which he said Ms Abbott “has been disgracefully treated by the Labour Party” and left “in limbo”.

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