Keir Starmer has thrown in the towel; Diane Abbott CAN stand for re-election under Labour's banner

Keir Starmer has thrown in the towel; Diane Abbott CAN stand for re-election under Labour’s banner

Keir Starmer has thrown in the towel; Diane Abbott can stand for re-election under Labour’s banner.

After days of withdrawn statement and redrawn red lines, Starmer has finally agreed that she is “free to go forward as a Labour candidate” for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the general election on July 4 this year.

It is a major defeat for the hard-right-wing Labour leader after more than a year of apparent attempts to get rid of Britain’s first black female MP.

First, her membership of the Parliamentary Labour Party was suspended after she sent a letter to the press that claimed Jews, Irish people and Travellers were unlikely to suffer the lifelong racism faced by black people, because their ethnic differences are not as obvious as skin colour.

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Then the facts that her case had been investigated and she had both apologised and carried out an online course on understanding anti-Semitism were (allegedly) hidden from the public in order to allow her suspension to be continued indefinitely.

When matters came to a head with the announcement of a general election on July 4 and he was challenged to clarify Ms Abbott’s position, Starmer claimed that lifting her suspension was a matter for Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

He almost immediately proved that this was not the case after the BBC’s Newsnight revealed leaked information that her suspension should have been lifted months previously, when he unilaterally decided that she could return to the PLP. So much for the claim that Labour has an independent system to settle disciplinary matters.

Ms Abbott almost immediately put him on the spot again, with a claim to the BBC’s Today programme that she was being blocked from standing for re-election as a Labour candidate in Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

On the ropes, Starmer was forced to fall back on his previous claim – that this was a matter for the NEC, which would decide at its meeting on June 4.

Some critics pointed out that this would leave her very little room to manoeuvre if the NEC blocked her; she would have very little time to arrange to be an Independent candidate, if she even wanted to. It seemed – to some – that Starmer was trying to force her out by a back door.

Now, possibly realising that the publicity he garners from such a result will be far-reachingly bad, Starmer has made his latest announcement – again pre-empting the NEC and proving that the Leader’s office still wields huge power in the party, even after promising to give it up.

So Starmer has proved to be a liar – multiple times.

It gets worse.

Now, Starmer is discovering that his choices have made him look weak: he picked a fight with an icon of the Left and – despite being party leader – lost.

And the apparent failure over Ms Abbott has cast an unkind spotlight on the Labour leadership’s treatment of others who expected to be candidates, with some calling it a “war on the Left”.

Did Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Faiza Shaheen really deserve to be deselected at the last minute? Starmer parachuted Chris Ward, one of his own former employees, into Mr Russell-Moyle’s Brighton Kemptown ward without consulting the local Labour Party.

What about Beth Winter, who was replaced by a Starmerite shadow minister after a selection battle forced by boundary changes?

What about Jamie Driscoll, who was barred from standing for the North East Mayoralty as a Labour candidate?

What about Jeremy Corbyn?

Meanwhile, out-and-out Tories like the hard-right Natalie Elphicke, along with Dan Poulter and now Mark Logan, have been welcomed into Labour with open arms.

Labour is trying to minimise the damage by claiming that very few people have mentioned on the doorstep the apparent mistreatment of Left candidates and dismantling of the “broad church” party in favour of one that sits deep in the right of the political spectrum.

But then, the Post Office told each sub-postmaster who complained about the Horizon system that they were the only one who had done so; some of us no longer have any time for such baseless assertions.

It all suggests that Keir Starmer cannot be trusted to tell the truth, and his party cannot be trusted to act in a just way. If not, then Labour must not be allowed to run the country.

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