The tragedy of Diane Abbott (2024)

Here’s the tragedy of Diane Abbott. She entered British politics as a trailblazer for black Britons and now she leaves public life on the sour note of insulting Jewish Britons. She started out as a warrior against racism but ended up seeming to minimise racism. She devoted her political career to standing up for beleaguered minorities and then made the grave moral error of playing down the beleaguering of Britain’s Jewish minority.

The moral fall of Diane Abbott tells a broader story about the moral decay of the left

How did this happen? How did our first black female MP end up in the eye of a racism storm? How did this consummate foe of racial hatred end up putting her name next to that now infamous letter to theObserverlast year in which she said Jewish people do not experience racial hatred? Prejudice, yes, but not racism. Jews get similar flak to gingers, she said. I cringe even now when I think about it. (Abbott claims a wrong draft of the letter was sent to the paper and she withdrew from the remarks.)

The moral fall of Diane Abbott tells a broader story about the moral decay of the left. It was more than misjudgement that led her to write the letter that sealed her political fate. Rather, her odd missive spoke to the corruption of the left by the poison of identity politics; to the left’s shift from the ideals of solidarity to the dead end of competitive grievance. That a resolutely anti-racist MP should end up essentially saying ‘I experience worse racism than you’ tells you everything you need to know about the crisis of progressive politics.

According to reports, Ms Abbott has had the Labour whip restored but has been banned from standing for Labour in the election in July. It was theObserverletter, of course, that led to the veteran Corbynite getting the heave-ho. Her comments were ‘deeply offensive and wrong’, Labour said shortly after the letter was published in April last year. Then it launched an investigation into Abbott which was apparently wrapped up five months ago.

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Whatever one thinks of the party’s decision to readmit Abbott while banning her from standing for re-election – it seems a tad harsh to me, but I’m a softie – it’s worth looking back at the letter that landed her in this mess. It really was nuts. She was responding to a comment piece that said Irish, Jewish and Traveller people, like people of colour, experience racism. No they don’t, Abbott essentially said. They ‘undoubtedly experience prejudice’, she wrote, but ‘they are not all their lives subject to racism’.

Let’s leave to one side Irish and Traveller people (my view is that anti-Irish racism has declined hugely in recent decades). The idea that Jews are not affected by racism is just morally and historically illiterate. Abbott’s reference to redhead prejudice in the same breath as anti-Jewish prejudice is one of the maddest, most tone-deaf things I’ve ever heard an elected representative say.

Anti-Semitism is the oldest racism. The destruction it has caused is incalculable. It’s the racism that refuses to die. Indeed, mere months after Abbott penned her career-ending letter, Jew hatred returned with a vengeance to western societies. In the aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October pogrom there has been an explosion in anti-Jewish racism in Europe.

Of course, Abbott could not have predicted the future. But it is unfortunate indeed that she seemed to minimise anti-Jewish racism just six months before we witnessed the worst act of anti-Jewish violence since the Holocaust, followed by a truly alarming spike in the persecution of Jews across the West. Show me one ginger who’s ever feared walking the streets of his own city because anti-redhead hate mobs are on the rampage.

The hypocrisy of the pro-Abbott left has been something to behold. These are the kind of activists who are hyper-sensitive to racism. Criticise the Koran and you’re ‘Islamophobic’. Ask someone where they’re really from and you’re ‘racist’. As for minimising the suffering of racial minorities, especially black Britons – that’s blasphemy in their circles. They’ll damn you as an excuse-maker for race hatred and cast you out of polite society.

And yet they were quick to forgive Ms Abbott for seemingly minimising anti-Jewish racism. In fact they rallied around her. They’re demanding she be allowed to stand for re-election in Hackney in July. Do you think they’d be so understanding if a Tory right-winger had said black people don’t experience racism? Of course not. Perhaps anti-Jewish racism just isn’t a big deal for these supposed anti-racists.

Beyond all this cant, the Abbott scandal shows what happens when anti-racism is replaced by identitarianism. When the old left that really did care for equality is superseded by a new left consumed by self-pity. When the noble goal of defeating racism is elbowed aside by the petty one-upmanship of victim politics, where every social group seems hell-bent on outdoing each other in the suffering stakes. You end up with an anti-racist MP saying the racism her people experience is worse than the racism other people experience. As if fighting racism were a competition rather than the moral duty of all good people.

The tragedy of Diane Abbott is the tragedy of the British left. Parliament may have lost an MP but British society has lost something infinitely more important: the principled anti-racism of yesteryear. Which is terrible because we need it now more than ever with everything that is happening to our Jewish citizens.

The tragedy of Diane Abbott (2024)


Did Diane Abbott lose her seat? ›

The Rt Hon Ms Diane Abbott is no longer a Member, but was most recently the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and left the Commons on 30 May 2024. The dissolution of Parliament took place on 30th May 2024.

Why is Diane Abbott important? ›

She was the first black woman to become an MP. Abbott has served on a number of parliamentary committees on social and international issues and held shadow ministerial positions in successive Shadow Cabinets. For most of the 1990s, she also served on the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Who is Diane Abbott's son? ›

Is Corbyn an MP? ›

He has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983. As of October 2020, Corbyn sat in the House of Commons as an independent, following the suspension of the whip. On 24 May 2024, Corbyn was expelled from the Labour Party.

Who is Diane Abbott married to? ›

Who is the Labour woman politician? ›

Angela Rayner (née Bowen; born 28 March 1980) is a British politician serving as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party since 2020, and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since 2023.

What did Frank Hester say to Diane Abbott? ›

According to The Guardian, Mr Hester made remarks about Ms Abbott in 2019 during a meeting at his Leeds company headquarters. The publication claimed he said: "It's like trying not to be racist but you see Diane Abbott on the TV, and you're just like… you just want to hate all black women because she's there.

Who is Diane Abbott's brother? ›

What does Jeremy Corbyn do for a living? ›

Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (born 26 May 1949) is a British politician. He was the 18th Leader of the Labour Party and the 34th Leader of the Opposition from 2015 to 2020. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983. He was elected Leader of the Labour Party in 2015.

Is Keir Starmer a socialist? ›

Early in this election campaign, Starmer surprised some voters when he declared himself still a socialist. (As a young man, Starmer served as the editor of a Trotskyite magazine called Socialist Alternatives.) “I would describe myself as a socialist. I describe myself as a progressive.

How much is Jeremy Corbyn worth? ›

Long-serving MP Jeremy Corbyn, who has been representing North Islington since 1983, has had his own net worth estimated at around £3million, according to Spears Magazine, and his considerable salary from Parliament would start at a basic £86,584 a year.

Is Boris Johnson still an MP? ›

He remained in the House of Commons as a backbencher until 9 June 2023, when he received the draft of the Commons Privileges Committee investigation into his conduct that unanimously found that he had lied to the Commons on numerous occasions. Johnson resigned his position as MP the same day.

What is the Tory MP? ›

Current usage. Tory has become shorthand for a member of the Conservative Party or for the party in general in Canada and the UK, and can be used interchangeably with the word Conservative.

Who is the Labour MP leader? ›

Sir Keir Rodney Starmer KCB KC (/ˈkɪər/; born 2 September 1962) is a British politician and barrister who served as Leader of the Labour Party since 2023 and as Leader of the Opposition from 2020 to 2024.

Is Jeremy Corbyn standing as an independent? ›

Jeremy Corbyn officially stands as independent candidate after Labour explusion.


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