Labour MP Diane Abbott has been suspended pending an investigation into a letter she wrote about racism to The Observer newspaper.
In the letter, published on Sunday, Abbott stated that while “many types of white people with points of difference” can experience prejudice, they are not subject to racism “all their lives”.
She later withdrew her comments and apologized “for any anguish caused”. Labour condemned the comments as “deeply offensive and wrong”.
Abbott’s letter prompted a backlash, including from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which described it as “disgraceful” and called for Abbott to be removed from the party.
The Jewish Labour Movement supported the party’s decision to suspend Abbott, stating that “a hierarchy of racism only divides communities and assists the racists”.
Abbott had been responding to a comment piece in The Guardian questioning the view that racism “only affects people of colour”.
She wrote that Irish, Jewish, and Traveller people “undoubtedly experience prejudice”, which she said is “similar to racism”. However, she faced criticism for suggesting that these groups do not face racism “all their lives”.
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, called the letter “deeply offensive and deeply distressing”.
She backed the suspension of the whip, stating that “the comments will be investigated and she has been immediately suspended”. The party declined to comment on when an investigation would begin or who would lead it.
In her apology, Abbott said “errors” arose in an initial draft that was sent. She continued, “But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologize for any anguish caused.
Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers, and many others”.
The recent history of the Labour party means that any comment which seems to downplay the experiences of Jewish people is toxic, especially when it comes from a prominent figure associated with the Jeremy Corbyn era.
Under his leadership, concerns that antisemitism was on the rise culminated in the party being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and being found to have acted unlawfully.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promised tough action to “root out” antisemitism when he became leader in 2020.
It took years before the EHRC said in February that it was now satisfied with Labour’s action on the issue.
However, comments such as Abbott’s show that the party still has work to do to combat antisemitism and other forms of racism.
The suspension of the whip means Abbott will not be allowed to represent Labour in the House of Commons, where she will now sit as an independent MP. The Labour Party spokesman said, “The Labour Party completely condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong. The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation”.
It remains to be seen what the outcome of the investigation will be and what impact it will have on Abbott’s future in the party.
However, the incident serves as a reminder that the fight against racism and discrimination is ongoing and that all individuals and organizations have a responsibility to work towards a more inclusive and equitable society.
Is Diane Abbott Jew?
NO! As at the time we worked on this article Diane Abbott is not a Jew she is a descendant of Jamaican immigrant who came to the UK in the 1950s as recorded by Wikipedia.