Diane Abbott had the courage to speak out – now where’s the Tory response?

Theresa May should launch a formal investigation into sexism and racism in her party


Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has warned that endemic abuse may deter young women from becoming involved in politics, describing the racism and sexism she has endured in the last week as a ‘perfect storm’.

Much of that abuse came from online trolls and bigots, and politicians across the spectrum have rightly committed to tackling online harassment.

However, in her article for the Guardian Abbott also references three separate incidents of inappropriate behavior by elected Conservative politicians, about which the government party has been remarkably silent.

Firstly, she mentions the Conservative councillor who retweeted an image of Abbott as an ape with lipstick. Secondly, she cites the ‘misogynist text exchange’ involving senior cabinet minister David Davis. And thirdly, she points to the experience of another female MP of colour, the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, whom Tory grandee Nicholas Soames barked at while she was speaking in parliament.

Now, the individuals involved in each of these cases have either apologised (Davis and Soames) or been suspended (the councillor). But dealing with the individual incidents is not good enough.

These stories reflect a systemic problem within the Conservative Party, whereby racist and sexist behaviour is considered acceptable — even by those at the highest levels of government. When issuing the Brexit secretary’s ‘apology’, a spokesman said the text exchange was private and ‘self-evidently jocular’.

Are we to understand that such comments are commonplace in private Tory exchanges? If so, that has serious implications for the way they view female or BME colleagues and should be investigated.

Last year, Conservatives of all levels were quick to slam the Labour Party over allegations of anti-Semitism within the party ranks. Labour, rightly, took those allegations seriously and launched a full-scale review. While the Chakrabati Report has its faults, it acknowledged the immense damage that any form of prejudice does to our political system.

Theresa May loves to brag about her party’s record of female prime ministers, and her own record of encouraging women in politics.

Faced with this serious charge — that the behaviour of senior Tories could deter women from becoming involved in politics — the prime minister should launch a formal investigation.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

See: David Davis harrassed Diane Abbott in parliament last night – we should take it seriously

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7 Responses to “Diane Abbott had the courage to speak out – now where’s the Tory response?”

  1. Michael WALKER

    Actions speak louder than words..

    “Theresa May loves to brag about her party’s record of female prime ministers,”

    Labour cannot : and then try to stir up the Tories?

    Virtue signalling claptrap…

    And you wonder why Labour loses voters with this rubbish….

  2. NHSGP

    When the Guardian posts articles on education, denigrating people because of their race, the cats out of the bag.

    It’s been made legitimate.

  3. John Reid

    They could find someone like shami Chakrobarti to have the investigation,find themselves not guilty.give that person a peerage

  4. John Reid

    The Chakrobarti had its faults while it acknowledged anti semitism is bad, but then decided, people saying stuff keep paring Jews to nazi concentration camps guards was ok,

    And yes the Tory has been suspended, give it a year,lie we have with Ken Livingstone nothing will come of it

  5. patrick newman

    I dont know what these posts above are trying to say. All of them have a problem of writing in English. What Abbott has written should come as no surprise to anyone who accepts politics is still very male orientated. Virtually all the advances in legislation for guaranteeing and extending women’s rights have been under Labour Governments – often aggressively opposed by the rabid Tory supporting press such as the Daily Mail!

  6. Jimmy Glesga

    Is this the woman who was against private education for children except her own child. You just have go love socialists.

  7. Michael WALKER

    “I dont know what these posts above are trying to say. All of them have a problem of writing in English”

    Here is a simple answer.
    Labour preach equality for women and do not practise it.

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