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UK's first black female MP 'banned' from standing as Labour candidate

IANS | May 29, 2024 03:24 PM

LONDON: UK's first-ever black female member of parliament (MP), Diane Abbott, has said she is "banned" from standing as a Labour candidate in the general election.

The long-standing MP for the London constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington had the Labour whip restored on Tuesday, months after an investigation into her comments on racism had concluded.

On Wednesday, she told the BBC, "Although the whip has been restored, I am banned from standing as a Labour candidate."

Labour withdrew the whip from Abbott in April 2023 after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experienced prejudice, but not racism.

BBC Newsnight reported that Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) had written to Abbott in December 2023 to say it had concluded an inquiry into her comments.

Asked about the investigation finishing in December, Labour leader Keir Starmer told broadcasters on Tuesday, "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."

Starmer has previously said he could not get involved in the case.

The Times previously reported that Abbott, who made history when she was first elected in 1987, will be banned from standing as a Labour candidate, with suggestions that lifting her suspension would allow her to leave politics "with dignity."

Campaign group Momentum previously said restoring the whip to 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."

Abbott was reported to have been issued with a "formal warning" by the NEC for "engaging in conduct that was, in the opinion of the NEC, prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the Labour Party."

She was told to take part in an online e-learning module, which she completed in February, something that Labour's chief whip allegedly acknowledged by email.

Abbott was an independent MP when Parliament was prorogued on Friday, May 24, ahead of the July 4 election.

The veteran MP was suspended after she responded to an Observer article headlined, "Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It's far more complicated."

She wrote in a letter to the title, "It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus."

Abbott later said she wished to "wholly and unreservedly withdraw" her remarks and disassociate herself from them.

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