Diane Abbott to Be Barred From Standing for Labour at Election

(Bloomberg) -- Diane Abbott, the first Black woman to be elected as a member of Parliament, will be blocked from standing for the opposition Labour Party at the UK election, the BBC and other media reported.

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Abbott won’t be allowed to seek re-election in the London district of Hackney North and Stoke Newington even after she was readmitted to the party following her suspension over comments about racism, according to the reports. Neither Abbott’s office nor the Labour Party responded to a request for comment.

The veteran MP represented Labour since entering Parliament in 1987, but she was suspended from the parliamentary party last year after writing a letter to the Observer newspaper saying Jewish people do not face the same form of racism as Black people. Labour’s condemnation of her comments came in the context of leader Keir Starmer’s efforts to rebuild after the tenure of predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, which was dogged by allegations of antisemitism.

The row over Abbott became even more complicated for Labour following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, which left Starmer battling to contain splits within the party over how to respond. Having spent months exerting his grip on Labour, some of the old divisions with the Labour left and its traditional sympathy toward the Palestinian cause, re-emerged.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to call an early election on July 4 meant the situation with Abbott was not resolved. After she was reinstated to the parliamentary Labour party this week, there was speculation Labour wanted an elaborate choreography where Abbott would be welcomed back before announcing her retirement.

But if the plan was to make it a smooth transition, it’s not how it’s played out in the media. Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting acknowledged on the BBC on Wednesday he didn’t know whether Abbott would stand, though he said he was “glad” her suspension was lifted on Tuesday.

The risk for Starmer lies in Abbott’s wider popularity in the party but especially on the left, where supporters of Corbyn already held deep suspicions of the Labour leader — if not outright hostility. Starmer kicked Corbyn out of the party months after taking over, again over a row over antisemitism.

The former leader is standing as an independent candidate in Islington North, a seat he has held since 1983, and has a campaign launch event later Wednesday.

On the flip side, Starmer and Labour have built a 20-point lead in the polls in part by shedding the party of Corbyn’s image, fostering closer ties with business and taking a more centrist stance on the economy and defense.

In that context, Labour officials may calculate that another row with the Corbynite left may even help, if it shows how far the party has moved on.

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