Diane Abbott has angrily accused Sir Keir Starmer of trying to end her parliamentary career. I don’t know whether this is true. But if it is, good for him. It’ll be the first thing he’s got right in ages.
After all, if Sir Keir wants to persuade the wider public that it’s safe to vote Labour, and that the influence of Jeremy Corbyn is nothing more than a miserable memory, Ms Abbott is exactly the sort of divisive crank he needs to get rid of. Let’s not forget the reason why she no longer has the Labour whip. It was suspended in April, after she sent a mind-boggling letter to the Observer in which she somehow managed to argue that Jewish people are victims not of racism, but merely “prejudice” – like, she suggested, people with ginger hair.
Personally, I’m not convinced that being called “carrot-top” by the school bully, distressing though it may be, is strictly comparable to the Holocaust. Evidently Sir Keir shares my doubts.
Ms Abbott is also a liability when speaking on air. During the general election campaign of 2017, she informed an interviewer on LBC radio that Labour would spend £300,000 on recruiting 10,000 new police officers. This would have given each new officer a salary of £30 a year. Even more embarrassingly, in 2008 she told the BBC: “Some people would judge that, on balance, Mao did more good than harm.” Which people would those be? Genocidal dictators? Fans of mass starvation?
We may also recall how she once loftily denounced Labour moderates for sending their children to selective schools. When Harriet Harman, for example, sent her son to a selective grammar, Ms Abbott sniffed, “She made the Labour party look as if we do one thing and say another.” Funny she should put it like that. Because Ms Abbott then sent her own son to an expensive private school.
On Tuesday, Ms Abbott released a statement, complaining about the way she’s being treated. “I am the longest-serving black MP,” she wrote. “Yet there is a widespread sentiment that as a black woman, and someone on the Left of the Labour party, I will not get a fair hearing from this Labour leadership.”
Hang on just a moment. There’s “a widespread sentiment” that she won’t get “a fair hearing” from the leadership because she’s “a black woman”? I don’t know who has expressed this “widespread sentiment” she refers to. But it clearly sounds as though these mysterious figures are suggesting that the Labour leadership is racist. Are they able to supply any evidence to support this extremely serious insinuation?
If so, they should publish that evidence as soon as possible. Otherwise, there is the risk that people will think they’re cynically smearing the Labour leadership because they’ve got no actual arguments left.
At any rate, the sheer force of Ms Abbott’s statement makes it seem even less likely that she’ll be a Labour candidate at the next election. In which case, Sir Keir will just have to struggle on without her.