Corbyn and McDonnell rally behind Diane Abbott after claims of ‘fraudulent’ disciplinary process

Diane Abbott said Labour's process was 'procedurally improper'

Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott accused the Labour Party of running a ‘fraudulent’ disciplinary process against her last night. The veteran MP had the Labour whip removed from her in April after a letter she wrote was published in the Observer. The letter implied that Jews, Irish people and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people do not experience racism.

Abbott swiftly apologised for the letter, saying: “I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociated myself from them.”

She has since been sitting as an independent MP, awaiting the outcome of an investigation. However, she issued a statement last night alleging that investigation is ‘fraudulent’ and ‘procedurally improper’.

In her statement, Abbott said: “The internal Labour Party disciplinary against me is fraudulent. 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 natural justice. It is procedurally improper.

“To be clear, I immediately and unreservedly apologised for my letter. Others have committed far more grave offences, and belated or grudging apologies have been wrung from them. Yet they have been immediately excused as supporters of this leadership.”

She continued by saying: “I have remained silent about this issue until now. This was in the hope that some sense of decency, and recognition of the tenets of natural justice might prevail. The Labour Party disciplinary machine has clearly shown that it has little interest in either.”

Abbott went on to accuse the Labour Party of seeking to replace her as an MP before the next general election. In her statement, she said that the “Labour apparatus has decapitated the elected leadership” of her Constituency Labour Party in order to “install its own, hand-picked personnel and replace me as a candidate prior to the next election.”

She concluded: “I am the longest serving Black MP. Yet there is a widespread sentiment that as a Black woman, and someone on the left of the Labour Party, that I will not get a fair hearing from this leadership.”

According to the Guardian, a Labour spokesperson has since 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.”

However, a number of left wing MPs have rallied behind Abbott. The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who himself remains suspended from the Labour whip – said: “The treatment of Diane Abbott — Britain’s first female Black MP — is a disgrace. The latest stitch-up represents yet another flagrant attack on local democracy. A lifelong anti-racist campaigner, Diane deserves so much better. So do party members being treated with contempt.”

Meanwhile, the former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “For months now I have been urging Keir Starmer to restore the whip to Diane Abbott. Just like many other Labour MPs who have made a mistake she apologised. In fact she did so rapidly.

“Other MPs in the same situation have had the whip restored after apologising. It is unacceptable that Diane is treated so drastically from others. That is why she has reacted the way she has.

“I am urging Keir Starmer to resolve this situation by simply treating Diane like every other Labour MP – accept her apology and restore the whip, so that she can have the opportunity to stand again for her constituency that she has served so well over decades.

“All I am asking for is fairness for Diane. This is no way to treat the first black woman in Parliament.”

Corbyn and McDonnell were joined in their support for Abbott by left Labour faction Momentum. In a statement, the group said: “The Labour Leadership’s treatment of Diane Abbott is nothing short of disgraceful, and is an insult both to Diane and to Labour Party members in Hackney, who voted overwhelmingly to reselect Diane.

“Diane was the first ever Black woman elected to Parliament and has been an anti-racist stalwart, campaigning on issues from Stephen Lawrence to Windrush. She has faced mountains of racist abuse, including from senior Labour officials. Yet five months on, the whip remains suspended from Diane in what seems to be a trial without process. This is exactly the kind of factional abuse of process warned against in the Forde Report Keir Starmer himself commissioned.

“In a new low, it seems that in their factional vendetta to force a black socialist woman out of Parliament, the Labour Leadership have exploited horrific crimes to shut out local Labour members and undermine due process. If there is any semblance of democracy and due process in Starmer’s Labour, a fair and proper process should rapidly be concluded and the whip restored.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: UK Parliament – Creative Commons

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