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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sadiq Khan weighs in on Diane Abbott’s possibly barred Labour candidacy status

Dianne Abbott, Member of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Image: Wikipedia

Diane Abbott could still be Labour’s general election candidate in Hackney North, Sadiq Khan has suggested, while claiming that questions about her being barred from standing are “hypothetical”.

It came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “no decision has been taken” to ban her from standing, leaving open the possibility that she could still be their candidate on July 4.

Asked about the matter on Wednesday, Mr Khan said he could not be sure what to believe from the media’s reporting of the issue – and he had not spoken to Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to get a definitive version of events.

Ms Abbott had told the Evening Standard on Wednesday morning that reports of her being banned from re-standing were “true”.

In a statement to broadcasters – reported in the Guardian – she was even more categorical, saying: “Although the whip has been restored, I am banned for standing as a Labour candidate.”

Sir Keir told the BBC later on Wednesday that this was “not true”, saying: “The process that we were going through ended with the restoration of the whip the other day, so she’s a member of the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and no decision has been taken barring her”.

Mr Khan also suggested the matter may not yet have been settled, though he did not claim to have any special insight into the case.

“All I know about Diane’s case is what I’ve seen in the media,” he said. “In the media, it says that Diane’s been restored the whip, but also it says in the media that the NEC hasn’t decided yet what happens in relation to Diane.”

Labour withdrew the whip in April 2023 from the veteran MP after she wrote in the Observer newspaper that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experienced prejudice, but not racism all their lives. She apologised and withdrew the remarks shortly afterwards.

BBC Newsnight reported that Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had written to Ms Abbott in December 2023 to say it had concluded an inquiry into her comments and given her a formal warning over them.

According to Newsnight, the MP was required to complete an “antisemitism awareness course”, which she did in February. It was then revealed that the whip was restored to her on Tuesday.

Asked whether it would be fair for her now to be banned from standing, given that she is said to have done what was asked of her by Labour, the mayor said: “We’re talking about hypotheticals. I’m not going to comment on hypotheticals.”

Asked about Ms Abbott’s claim to journalists that she has been barred, Mr Khan said: “I’ve not spoken to the NEC about the position. But the NEC, and the media, are saying no position has been taken.

“So you can cherrypick quotes from the media, but you’re reinforcing my point about [how] all I know is what I’ve seen in the media.”

He also told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “What I know, as someone who’s known Diane well since 2005, is she’s a trailblazer. I remember as a 16-year-old boy seeing her elected in 1987, with Bernie Grant, Paul Boateng and Keith Vaz. It made a huge impact on me.

“I must be one of millions of people on whom she made a huge impact – in a positive sense of the word.”

He added: “She’s been a mentor to many of us, but also she’s stood up on issues that aren’t very popular – the issues around racial justice, social justice, highlighting some of the discrimination when it comes to stop and search, when it comes to the exclusion of black boys from school, when it comes to the NHS.

“So I think she’s somebody who’s done a huge amount for Hackney, for London, for our country, and so I think it’s really important that she’s given the respect she deserves.”

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