Politics Explained

What Diane Abbott missed in her letter about racism

The MP has been criticised for encouraging a ‘hierarchy of racism’, writes Sean O’Grady

Tuesday 25 April 2023 09:54 BST
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<p>Abbott has lost the Labour whip </p>

Abbott has lost the Labour whip

Diane Abbott’s letter to the press about racism – and subsequent apology and withdrawal of her remarks – have proved to be one of the most controversial incidents in an eventful career. She has been widely condemned for her remarks, not least by Keir Starmer who called them antisemitic. She has lost the whip, and may well forfeit the right to stand as an official Labour candidate at the next election. What is less discussed is the nub of the issue of antisemitism and what she got wrong about it.

Why did Abbott write the letter?

She was reacting to an article by Tomiwa Owolade in The Observer, which pointed out that “white” minorities can be victims of racism too: “The Evidence for Equality National Survey report complicates some of the underlying assumptions that many ostensibly progressive people espouse on racial inequality in Britain. In fact, the two groups most likely to say they have experienced racist abuse, according to the survey, are Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and Jewish people.”

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