Hackney rally stands with Diane Abbott

Dave Kellaway reports from Hackney on Sunday’s rally in support of Diane Abbott.


Around 200 local people rallied in Hackney Downs Park to show their support for their local MP, Diane Abbott. She was the first black woman MP and has steadfastly represented the people of Hackney, particularly the Black community, for the last 37 years. The Parliamentary Labour Party has currently suspended her (she has lost the whip) due to a clumsily worded letter to the press in which she tried to argue for some sort of crude hierarchy of prejudice and racism. Diane almost immediately apologised for the letter and the offence it had caused. She had been overwhelmingly re-selected as a candidate by members of her local Labour Party. However, as long as the party withholds the whip from her, she cannot be the candidate.

Frank Hester, a Tory donor, recently made outrageously racist comments against her that included incitement to her murder, which sparked an outpouring of solidarity and support for her. Even Starmer, who has personally organised her suspension, hypocritically asked what he could do to help. Diane’s instant reply—for her suspension to be lifted—was ignored. The party has resolved and reinstated MPs in other cases similar to Diane’s. Cases involving pro-Starmerite MPs have been sorted out in favour of those MPs. It beggars belief that a judgement about a two-paragraph letter that you can read in about a minute requires more than a year’s investigation. Despite questions from herself and thousands of supporters about why it is taking so long, Starmer and the apparatus have maintained a stony silence.

Even pro-leadership people like Harriet Harman, Angela Rayner, and Ed Balls have called for her reinstatement. Local labour party members who just posted a flyer advertising this rally had their WhatsApp messages deleted in the local ward group. It appears that only well-known leaders are permitted to comment, while the party denies local members that same right!

Obviously, the ‘disciplinary’ matter is not as straightforward a question for Starmer as was the case for Jeremy Corbyn, who correctly refused to apologise. Diane has apologised, and after the Hester affair, she has even more sympathy among the membership and the public than before. It is not a great look for Labour to kick out the trailblazing first black woman MP. Rumours persist that Starmer would like a deal where he gives her a peerage or some other sort of honorary post and re-admission as long as she steps down as an MP.

After the local party’s nearly year-long suspension, local right wing factions have regained the majority. Consequently, if Diane were no longer the candidate, a re-run re-election process would lead to Starmer loyalists choosing one of their own. In her recent Guardian interview, Diane stated that she would not want to run against a Labour Party candidate.

We must maintain all pressure on the Starmer leadership to step back and re-admit our local MP, who has built up one of the biggest Labour majorities in the country. Below are a number of short videos of the speeches by Diane and her supporters at today’s rally. Details about how to support Diane are here.

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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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