Diane Abbott makes bid for Labour leadership

// 20 May 2010

Britain’s first Black woman MP has just joined the leadership contest, annoucing her intentions on BBC Radio 4 about an hour ago.

There’s a piece about it on BBC online here.

After an election campaign that was dominated by white men, Diane’s bid will come as a refresher for some, just for its change of face.

Ms Abbott, the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP who in recent years has been a fixture on the BBC’s This Week programme, said: “We need to speak to our supporters and speak to our members in a way that we are not speaking to them up until now.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she was “attracting support not just from the Left but from women and other MPs that want to see a more diverse range of candidates”.

At the general election, Ms Abbott increased her constituency majority to 14,461, with a swing to Labour from the Liberal Democrats.

Update: Operation Black Vote came out in favour of the bid on Comment is Free last night.

Just a reminder, the other candidates (all men) are: Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, John McDonnell, David Miliband and Ed Miliband. Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper have ruled themselves out.

The announcement is already on Wikipedia!

Comments From You

Kez // Posted 20 May 2010 at 9:51 am

Good news – not, of course, that she has a cat in hell’s chance of winning, but in the present climate, it’s nice to see someone making news from any party who is not white and male.

Should maybe point out though that that Woman’s Hour link (from 2007) is distinctly out of date, as there are now several black and Asian female MPs including, in 2010, the first Muslim women MPs (all Labour) – Shabana Mahmood, Yasmin Qureshi and Rushanara Ali. The Tories have Helen Grant and Priti Patel, that I know of.

zohra moosa // Posted 20 May 2010 at 11:14 am

Hi Kez

The link was to the programme about the 20th anniversary of Diane’s election as first Black woman MP which talked about what it was like being the first… Even at the time of the programme, Diane wasn’t the only Black woman MP as Dawn Butler was in Parliament. As Diane is now also the first Black woman MP (I think/assume) to run for Labour’s leadership, I thought the programme would be of interest as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far there is to go.

Kez // Posted 20 May 2010 at 12:46 pm

Hi Zohra,

Yes, the programme is definitely worth a listen. I wasn’t meaning to sound critical – just to point out for the benefit of anyone who might not know (though most people here probably would!) that the information attached to it was a bit out of date.

I was sorry Dawn Butler lost her seat this time round.

Dan // Posted 20 May 2010 at 1:10 pm

It’s very likely that David Miliband will win but it would be interesting if there was a surprise victor

tomhulley // Posted 20 May 2010 at 1:55 pm

what a star!

an outsider but the fittest to win

not impossible as patience runs out with desperate men

diane’s one of the few in the labour party with clean hands

good luck to her

maggie // Posted 20 May 2010 at 3:34 pm

At last something to celebrate and good luck to you Diane. I hope I get to vote for you.

Michelle // Posted 20 May 2010 at 4:36 pm

As much as i think it is great that Diane has decided to stand and it no doubt will help to open up the debate which is exactly what is needed I think we need to not get too excited.

‘Clean hands’ (tomhulley)might be a bit of over the top. I refer you to her decision to send her son to a fee paying school despite having criticised Blair for doing exactly the same – ‘indefensible’ she called it – before she did it herself.

She also failed to declare her earnings from ‘This week’ which was a bit ridiculous.

Lets not build her into a saint! We need to get prepared for the criticism which will be fired at her.

Having said that it is great and i am pleased i will have a woman to vote for if i decide to.

Graham Jones // Posted 20 May 2010 at 4:36 pm

A few years ago Diane Abbot expressed a wish that her son would one day play cricket for the West Indies. Nothing wrong with that but its not exactly a ringing endorsement for Great Britain plc from a potential future Prime Mininster.

Shea // Posted 20 May 2010 at 5:28 pm

“but its not exactly a ringing endorsement for Great Britain plc from a potential future Prime Mininster.”

Actually its more a dismissal of the English cricket team than anything else.

I think the fact that our current Prime Minister was financed by a non-dom who made his money overseas, and has huge foreign interests is a much worse endorsement. He who pays the piper calls the tune eh?

I like Diane, it makes a change from the pale, male and stale current view of British politics. Obviously I would prefer Caroline Lucas to be our next Prime Minister (or our current one) but good luck to Diane all the same. If anyone can save Labour its her.

Jeff // Posted 20 May 2010 at 6:35 pm

“‘Clean hands’ (tomhulley)might be a bit of over the top. I refer you to her decision to send her son to a fee paying school despite having criticised Blair for doing exactly the same – ‘indefensible’ she called it – before she did it herself.”

To be honest, this bothers me not the least. Political hypocrisy is frankly nothing new, and nothing I’m going to get het up about. On the other hand, had she chosen to send her child to a worse school just for political gain, I’d have considered that more than a little irresponsible.

Diane is a little too left leaning for my tastes, but I wish her well. If she does become Labour leader, I’d consider that a good thing for Britain, regardless of whether she makes it to No.10

Victoria // Posted 20 May 2010 at 7:22 pm

Fantastic news! Do you know if there’s anything we can do to support her? If Abbott were leading the Labour Party I would seriously consider voting for them again; maybe if we could show Labour how popular she is, she’d have a better chance of winning.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 20 May 2010 at 10:11 pm

Do our MPs have to nail their flags firmly to the ‘British’- to the exclusion of all else- tree? Can you not be British and also West Indian? Can you not celebrate the culture of your ethnic origin- and want your children to be part of that- and also have Britain as your home and want to be part of governing that land? It doesn’t have to be either/or. Britain is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country and to be fully accepting of that, is to recognise that people will have complex loyalties across national boundaries- and that is something to be celebrated. We certainly didn’t have too much of a problem with this idea when we sent out our white colonialists to rule various countries all over the globe. I don’t think anybody complained when the viceroy of India played cricket for England.

And, from the Scottish element here, who’d want to play cricket for England anyway? When you get to have multiple national sports teams within Britain to represent our multiple ethnicities- as we currently do- why would we stop at the UK border?

Kez // Posted 20 May 2010 at 10:49 pm

Oh no, not the Norman Tebbit “cricket test” rearing its head again! I’m having a scary Tory government flashback. In more ways than one.

Rose // Posted 21 May 2010 at 12:09 pm

Victoria, one of the best ways to support her is to join the Labour party so you can cast a vote for her in the leadership contest. If you’re under 27 it will only cost you £1 and you don’t have to renew your membership after the first year if she doesn’t win…

All the details are on the Labour party’s website.

Josie // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:17 pm

Jeff, I’m glad it’s not just me! I can’t say I give a flying fig about the whole fee-paying school issue – she believed she was putting her son’s life chances first. That’s called being a good parent. I also quite admired her rather bullish description of her decision as ‘indefensible’, meaning she could not defend it, so wasn’t even going to try, and refused to answer any further questions on the matter. Much more coherent that giving some weasely half-baked answer full of excuses!

Rose (different one!) // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:55 pm

On principle I’m against the social division that I consider to be increased by private schools – but frankly, I wish I had gone to one! It came up in a PSHE lesson when I was back at school, and even the teacher had to agree that we weren’t getting a proper education in the community school that we were in.

Until the quality of education improves in state schools I think it’s perfectly understandable to send your kids to a private school (for those that can afford it!).

Other than that, she doesn’t support the English cricket team! Niether do I.

Does anyone have anything more questionable on her? If not – we can question how human she is…. ‘cos humans screw up, it’s our nature.

Victoria // Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:26 pm

Thanks Rose, I’ll definitely do that!

Anne Onne // Posted 22 May 2010 at 1:27 pm

I wish her well.

I think the media blew the school thing out of proportion. Hypocritical, undoubtedly, but not a crime, and not anything that every other politician wasn’t doing. Given the fact that her white, mostly middle-class male peers were themselves mostly privately educated as well as their kids, what was there to get SO up in arms about? It was no more a ringing endorsement of comprehensives when any of them sent their kids to private school, and many of them have talked about the education system, too. I can’t help but feel it was unfair to single out a black woman for sending her children to private school, especially considering that it is slightly different for someone from a minority traditionally excluded from top private schools sending their kids to one when we say nothing about all those from traditionally privileged backgrounds continuing the generations of privilege they’ve had.

As for the West Indies comment, the fact that it made any impact shows that a lot of us still believe that in order to integrate, immigrants and their descendants have to abandon any vestiges of previous culture or sentiment towards their native country in order to not be a threat to our way of life. Look below the surface of any ”Why don’t they bloody speak English” comment and you see a person who doesn’t like being reminded that some people are different. There’s a fear that if minorities don’t conform that they’ll take us over or force us to conform to their culture. This is wrong, and it is xenophobic. We are proud when an immigrant decides to choose to define themselves as British, or represent Britain, but why can we not be proud that they feel secure enough in who they are (that is, both British and also tied to somewhere else), that they can acknowledge their roots openly and proudly.

We don’t expect ‘expats’ (really a fancy way of saying white, Anglo-Saxon immigrants, isn’t it?) to give up all ties to being British when they settle elsewhere, so there’s definitely something wrong with our belief immigrants should be ashamed of where they came from once they’re here.

Elly // Posted 22 May 2010 at 6:19 pm

It’s good that the leadership contest isn’t dominated by white men, but for anyone on the left John McDonnell is a far better candidate. Compare their voting records (theyworkforyou.com and other sites show you them) – I think we need to be careful about supporting Diane simply because she’s a left-leaning black woman, when there’s a better left candidate..

coldharbour // Posted 23 May 2010 at 5:02 pm

“We don’t expect ‘expats’ (really a fancy way of saying white, Anglo-Saxon immigrants, isn’t it?) to give up all ties to being British when they settle elsewhere”

Since when was being ethnically British synonymous with being “Anglo-Saxon”? The ethno-national concept of being British came into fruition with the Act Of Union between England and Scotland in 1707. Most of the “expats” I know are Scottish.

msruth // Posted 25 May 2010 at 12:30 pm

Yes, her son got a better education out of her decision, but letting people who can afford to buy a better education for their children is (in my opinion) unfair and also weakens the state education, we want to keep people with high expectations from education in the system as this will help improve the system. You may not agree with me on this but Diane Abbot had categorically said that this was also her opinion. So it was a case of her ignoring her own stated principles and also, in her socialist views, damaging the education of others to benefit her son.

I like Diane Abbot and I am probably going to vote for her in the leadership election, but I’m still not going to defend her for something I think was wrong or say ‘well all politicians are like that’/

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds