“As a Black woman, and someone on the left of the Labour Party… I will not get a fair hearing from this Labour leadership.”
That is the verdict from Diane Abbott on an apparent non-investigation into racism that she – the MP who has received more race-hate messages than every other MP combined – is alleged by party leader Keir Starmer to have committed.
The allegations arise from a letter she wrote, that was published in The Observer in April. I wrote at the time:
Here’s the letter in full:
Racism is black and white
Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from “racism” (“Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated”, Comment). They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.
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. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.
House of Commons, London SW1
Anybody can see what she was trying to do: she was pointing out that people of colour suffer racism far more often in their daily lives than those who might be defined as “white/European”, because the difference is visually obvious.
(It is also misleading. I have a friend who is white and Welsh, but whose face might seem to have a Middle-Eastern look about it to those who live by stereotypes. He tans very easily, and tells me that, when he has been on holiday abroad (lucky fellow!) he is habitually picked out for a “random” bomb check on the way back into the UK, by security officials who think he looks like an Islamic terrorist.)
Nobody who knows her history could deny that she has a very strong point; if I recall correctly, Ms Abbott receives more racist hate mail than all other MPs put together.
She tried to make a distinction by saying people of colour suffer racism while Irish people, Jews and Travellers (the GRT community), suffer prejudice instead – and that’s where she went wrong.
It’s all racism. Jewish people (for example) were originally Semitic (hence the word for hate against them: anti-Semitism), and the fact that their culture, like Christianity, has been successful in absorbing people from other races does not stop hatred being directed at them because they are different.
I was going to suggest that she could have used the word “xenophobia” to describe the hatred of people of colour in this context – the so-called “dislike of the unlike”. But that does not only refer to race/skin colour but also to culture, so it might be a better umbrella title for the prejudice faced by all the groups she mentions.
The problem here is simply finding the right word for the distinction she intended, which is that the other groups can avoid abuse on occasions because their skin colour means they can blend in with what, for want of a better word, I’ll describe as the majority.
But it was enough for the usual suspects to spring to the attack – presumably secure in the knowledge that nobody is about to ask them to compare the amount of abuse those of them who present as white/European receive against Ms Abbott’s.
(Indeed, judging from the abuse that Ms Abbott has received over this letter, it seems some of them may even have perpetrated some of it.)
At the end of the day, it was a valid point made in a very clumsy way.
Ms Abbott has apologised for it, claiming that the letter published in The Observer was a draft that should not have gone out. That’s still her mistake, though – and one she should not have made. Here’s what she said:
I am writing regarding my letter that was recently published in the Observer.
I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them.
The errors arose in an initial draft being sent. But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.
Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.
So she accepts that she was at fault and has apologised.
If she was a member of Keir Starmer’s gang, that would be the end of it. But she isn’t, so she has lost the whip and there will undoubtedly be attempts to push her out of the party (or at least out of ever again being able to stand for election to the Hackney Parliamentary seat).
Never mind his gang; Keir Starmer’s response was unequivocal. According to the BBC:
Asked about Ms Abbott’s comments the following day, Sir Keir condemned them and said they were antisemitic.
The BBC also stated:
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party rightly expects the highest standards of behaviour from its elected representatives, and has introduced an independent complaints process to investigate cases.
“We do not give a running commentary on ongoing investigations.”
Fortunately for the British sense of fair play, Ms Abbott has provided a commentary on it – she has condemned it as “fraudulent”.
In a statement published on ‘X’, she said:
“I was told by the Chief Whip to ‘actively engage’ with an investigation.But the Labour Whips are no longer involved – it is now run entirely out of the Labour Party HQ, which reports to Keir Starmer – and there is no investigation.
“This is the same Keir Starmer who almost immediately pronounced my guilt publicly. This completely undermines any idea that there is fairness or any natural justice. It is procedurally improper.”
It certainly is. Remember the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and its report on Labour anti-Semitism that stated that the party leader’s office must not take part in or influence any investigations. At the time, Starmer undertook to adopt this demand fully. It seems he has chosen to forget this agreement.
Of course, no Labour complaints process can be said to be independent if it is being run from the party leader’s office, so the statement by the party spokesperson must also be considered – at the very least – questionable.
Notice also that Ms Abbott says Labour has not charged her with anti-Semitism, despite this being the basis of Starmer’s accusation against her. What is the charge, then?
Ms Abbott’s statement goes on to identify inconsistencies in the way Starmer’s party handles proven cases in which party members have been found guilty of wrongdoing. So:
“Others have committed far more grave offences, and belated or grudging apologies have been wrung from them, Yet they have been immediately excused as [they are] supporters of this leadership.”
Among those who have apparently been excused are those right-wing party members who were identified in the Forde Report which Starmer commissioned and then disowned when he realised it did not say what he wanted. Ms Abbott wrote:
“A large proportion of the racism that the Forde Report uncovered [within the Labour Party] was personally directed against me… I have never received an apology from the Leader, the General Secretary or any of the perpetrators [of] that racism. I am not even aware of any of the culprits facing disciplinary measures, as I am obliged to do.”
The implication is clear: not only is Labour still a hotbed of the most vile racism imaginable, but those responsible are actively protected by the party’s leaders – meaning Keir Starmer himself. This alleged racism goes right to the very top – and unlike that which was claimed against Jeremy Corbyn, there seems to be an evidential basis for it.
Where is the investigation into Keir Starmer’s apparent racism?
Perhaps even more shocking is Ms Abbott’s description of the way questions about child safeguarding, posed after a former Labour councillor who had been election agent for Hackney South MP Meg Hillier and shared a house with Hackney’s Mayor, Philip Glanville (who continued to associate with him, even after being informed of his arrest), were used to suppress members in the relevant Constituency Labour Party.
Is Starmer’s party now protecting paedophiles or excusing paedophilia? Where is the investigation into this?
The evidence Ms Abbott provides paints a picture of a political party that, under its current leader, has been corrupted to its core, with outrageous privileges apparently granted to racists and paedophiles because they are on Starmer’s side of the party. Or am I mistaken?
Ms Abbott concludes – rather mildly in This Writer’s opinion: “Taken together, the procedural impropriety, Starmer’s pronouncement of my guilt, the four-month delay in the investigation, the repeated refusal to reach any accommodation, all point in the direction that the verdict has already been reached.”
It reminds me very much of the situation when I was put through Labour’s disciplinary procedure. The public allegation was anti-Semitism then, as well – it took a subsequent court case to reveal the fact that the real reason for the action was that my accurate articles about the anti-Semitism claims against party members were upsetting those who wanted to use the false claims against then-leader Jeremy Corbyn.
My case was subject to more than a year’s delay and, while the court ultimately found no rules had been broken, the regulations informing those rules had not been properly observed.
My disciplinary hearing, before a kangaroo court of the party’s National Constitutional Committee, was a farce. The evidence was not examined properly because the party did not produce anybody who was familiar with it. Despite the fact that this meant the party could not contest my case, the finding still went against me. I tend to the opinion that the verdict had already been reached before that investigation happened, as well.
And what about the way false claims about me were leaked to The Sunday Times, which was subsequently forced to retract its libellous claim that I was a Holocaust denier, that was based on lies in the Labour Party’s information about me?
It seems clear that, despite promises to follow the EHRC’s recommendations, Labour has changed nothing since the bad old days of the biased right-wing disciplinary machine under former General Secretary Iain McNichol.
In This Writer’s opinion – based on personal experience – Ms Abbott is right to conclude that she’ll get no justice there.
Worse still is the astonishing, blinkered attitude of other – elected – representatives of the Labour Party. Here’s one “Cllr Matt Dent”, who I had to put straight shortly before writing this article:
Perhaps you didn't read her letter in the Observer. She said people who are not obviously non-white European "are not all their lives subject to racism". She did NOT say they don't experience it at all, and certainly did not rule out prejudice. I'm happy to set you straight.
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) September 20, 2023
Now Ms Abbott expects to be deselected after the elected leadership of her Constituency Labour Party was undemocratically removed by Keir Starmer and his cronies.
What should she do?
I tend to agree with the sentiment of Jackie Walker – herself mistreated brutally at the hands of the Labour disciplinarians:
“Diane Abbott, it’s time to leave Labour and stand as an independent. Rally the black, left, radical voters and campaigners.”
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