Labour's Starmer denies that pro-Palestinian MP Diane Abbott barred by party from UK vote

Labour's Starmer denies that pro-Palestinian MP Diane Abbott barred by party from UK vote
Keir Starmer said that 'no decision' has been taken to ban Diane Abbott from standing in the upcoming elections, despite previous reports.
3 min read
Diane Abbott has not been prohibited from running in the UK general election, contrary to earlier reports [Getty/file photo]

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer denied Wednesday that his party had barred pro-Palestinian MP Diane Abbott, the first black woman to enter parliament, from standing as its candidate in the general election.

Abbott, the MP for a northeast London constituency since 1987, was suspended by Labour in April last year over contentious comments she made about Irish, Jewish and Traveller people not facing racism "all their lives".

Although she promptly apologised and withdrew the remarks, made in a letter to the Observer newspaper, the party opened an investigation. Its findings have not been publicly disclosed.

The BBC reported Wednesday that the 70-year-old lawmaker had said she was readmitted to Labour's parliamentary ranks this week but that she was "banned from standing as a Labour candidate" in the July 4 election.

But asked about the matter while campaigning in western England, Starmer insisted "that's not true".

"No decision has been taken to bar Diane Abbott," he said.

Abbott cast further doubt on the situation by posting on social media that she was "very dismayed that numerous reports suggest I have been barred as a candidate".

That suggested she had not yet heard directly from Labour.

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The saga threatens to become a major campaign distraction for the party, which is heavily tipped to reclaim power for the first time in 14 years in the July contest.

It has also exposed long-standing factional splits within the opposition party, and drawn condemnation from a left-wing base already critical of its centrist shift under leader Keir Starmer.

Starmer has also come under fire for his stance regarding Israel's war in Gaza,  having refused to support a ceasefire - prompting several members of the party to resign or leave.

Abbott, who stood to be party leader in 2010, is a highly respected figure within Labour ranks.

She is a close ally of leftist ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn, who appointed her as the party's home affairs spokesperson during his 2015-2020 tenure as leader.

Corbyn was suspended by Labour in 2020 after he refused to fully accept the findings of a rights watchdog's probe into claims that antisemitism became rampant within the party under his leadership.

He had been sitting as an independent MP since then and last week announced he would stand in the coming election as an independent candidate.

Abbott has not said whether she intends to do the same if similarly axed by Labour.

Starmer has previously insisted that the disciplinary process is independent and that the party's executive board would decide whether she could stand in July.

It is due to meet next week to finalise the party's formal list of candidates.

"This is a matter that will have to be resolved by the National Executive Committee and they'll do that in due course," he said Tuesday.