Abbott hits out at ‘level of racism still in Britain’ as MP is cheered by supporters at rally

Politics

Diane Abbott has appeared at a rally where she hit out at the “level of racism that is still in Britain”, following a row over comments made about her.

Ms Abbott was greeted in Hackney, east London, with cheers and chants of “I stand with Diane” after a Tory donor’s reported offensive remarks.

The former Labour MP praised the people of Hackney whom she said “stood by her – year after year, decade after decade”.

Image:
Diane Abbott. File pic: PA

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In the wake of the race row, she said: “This is not about me, this is about the level of racism that is still in Britain. This is about the way that black women are disrespected.”

The MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, who was suspended from the parliamentary Labour Party last year, went on to say her mother came to Britain in the 1950s as a nurse.

“She was in that generation of black women who built the national health service,” she said.

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Ms Abbott, who currently sits as an independent MP in the Commons, attended the rally days after comments by Tory donor Frank Hester emerged in The Guardian.

He reportedly said at a 2019 meeting that she made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Mr Hester, who is the chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership, said he was “deeply sorry” for the remarks, but insisted they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

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Frank Hester. Pic: PA/CHOGM Rwanda 2022

The Conservatives have faced pressure to return the money Mr Hester has donated to the party in the wake of the row, which is understood to total £15m since 2019.

There have also been calls among Ms Abbott’s supporters for her to be allowed back into the parliamentary Labour Party again by having the whip restored.

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Ms Abbott had the Labour whip removed from her last year following comments she made in the Observer in which she said Jewish, Irish and Traveller people do not face “racism” but instead suffer prejudice similar to “redheads” – something for which she later apologised.

On Friday night, The Independent reported Ms Abbott had not had the whip restored because she refused to take part in antisemitism training – a claim she rejected as a “blatantly shoddy piece of journalism”.

The Labour Party has said it does not comment on individual cases.

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