UK Labour Party suspends MP Diane Abbott over racism comments

Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott   -  Copyright  Alberto Pezzali/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved

The UK Labour Party on Sunday suspended Diane Abbott, the first black woman to sit in the House of Commons, over a letter she wrote about racism.

The UK Labour Party on Sunday suspended the first black woman to sit in the House of Commons, over a letter she wrote about racism.

In the letter, published by the Observer newspaper, Diane Abbott suggests that Jews, Irish people and Travellers are "undoubtedly victims of prejudice" but "are not subject to lifelong racism", unlike black people.

"The Labour Party totally condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong," said a Labour Party spokesperson, announcing the suspension of Diane Abbott while an investigation is carried out.

In response to the backlash that followed the publication of her letter, Abbott had already apologised on Twitter. "I wish to fully and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them," she wrote.

"I would like to apologise for any anguish caused," she continued. "Racism takes many forms and there is no doubt that Jewish people have suffered from its monstrous effects, as have the Irish, Travellers and many others.

In her letter, Diane Abbott had written that these population groups are "undoubtedly victims of prejudice (...) Many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, may be victims of prejudice".

"But they are not subject to racism all their lives. Before civil rights in America, (they) didn't have to sit at the back of the bus. In South Africa during apartheid, these groups had the right to vote," she added.

The case comes just days before local elections and with Labour at the top of the polls against the Conservatives who have been in power for 13 years.

The subject of anti-Semitism is extremely sensitive within the party, which has been rocked in recent years by repeated incidents.

In 2020, the Equality and Human Rights Committee (EHRC) found "inexcusable" failings resulting from a "lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism" within Labour.

At the time, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the party between 2015 and 2020, was suspended for questioning some of the report's findings.

In February, British Labour leader Keir Starmer repeated his commitment to turning the page on the "scourge" of anti-Semitism.

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