Three Labour names in frame with Diane Abbott’s candidacy in doubt

Estimated read time 4 min read

Labour could select one of three “credible” candidates to run in Diane Abbott’s seat as it seemed intent on not allowing Abbott to stand for the party despite an investigation into her conduct being completed six months ago.

Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, was suspended from the party in April last year over a letter in the Observer that seemed to play down suggestions of racism against Jewish people, meaning she was still an independent when parliament was prorogued for the general election on 4 July.

Labour’s national executive committee completed its investigation in December, it has emerged, and Abbott was given a formal warning with an instruction to complete an online antisemitism training course in February.

It was reported on Tuesday evening that Labour had restored the whip to Abbott, but it remained unlikely that she would be selected as a candidate in the upcoming election.

The Guardian understands that the party could make a renewed push to exclude her from standing again for her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat after she liked a post on X by Jeremy Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez, about his decision to stand as an independent candidate. Restoring the whip to Abbot would allow her to leave the party “with dignity”, according to party sources.

In the past, Labour has blocked a number of leftwing hopefuls from standing as candidates and suspended party members for expressing support for other political parties.

Although her fate is officially yet to be decided, three Labour activists with links to Abbott’s constituency – Anntoinette Bramble, the deputy mayor of Hackney council; Sem Moema, the London assembly member for North East; and Mete Coban, a Labour councillor for Stoke Newington – have been widely talked about as possible replacements.

Abbott was suspended after she wrote a letter, for which she has apologised, suggesting Jewish, Irish and Traveller people were not subject to racism “all their lives”.

Party sources acknowledge the huge amount of support that Abbott has locally and had been hoping to find a civil agreement and not stand for Labour at the next election due to what are termed as health difficulties.

But sources close to Abbott have questioned why her future in the party has been linked to her health, and why she cannot make the decision.

BBC Newsnight was first to report that the NEC had completed its investigation as long ago as December. In March, Abbott strongly denied reports that had she rejected antisemitism training offered by the party.

Labour figures from across different factions of the party are understood to be furious that the case was concluded so long ago but shadow ministers have continued to present it as ongoing, seemingly not knowing. Others have expressed concern that black Labour members will feel there is no space for them in the party if she is ejected.

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After the Guardian revealed that the Conservatives’ biggest donor, Frank Hester, had told colleagues that looking at Abbott made you “want to hate all black women” and that the MP “should be shot”, Abbott said she hoped to receive some “public support” from the Labour leader, Keir Starmer.

In the wake of the row, Starmer criticised Hester’s “abhorrent language” but told the BBC that Abbott’s suspension “was for an entirely different issue”.

When asked about Abbott’s case last week, Starmer said: “The final decisions on candidates is coming up in a few days’ time, I think 4 June – it may be a little earlier, a little later, I can’t quite remember. But within a relatively short period of time the final list of candidates will be decided, and that will be a matter for the Labour party’s national executive committee.”

A spokesperson for the leftwing campaign group Momentum said: “This is outrageous news which confirms that the Starmer leadership is trying to force Britain’s first black woman MP out of parliament. For months we have been told by Keir Starmer that the process is independent and it’s nothing to do with him.”


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