Angela Rayner wants Diane Abbott back as Labour MP as she shares ‘frustration’ at investigation timescale

By Staff

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has expressed her desire to see Diane Abbott return as a Labour MP. She also shared her frustration over the length of investigations. This comes after Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, stated that an 11-month investigation into alleged anti-Semitic comments made by Ms Abbott was still “not resolved”.

He’s resisted calls to reinstate the Labour whip. Ms Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, has been an independent MP since April. This followed the withdrawal of the Labour whip due to a letter she sent to The Observer where she suggested that Jewish, Irish and Traveller people do not experience racism “all their lives”.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington is currently in the middle of a Conservative race row. She is still waiting for the results of an independent process investigating her comments.

READ MORE: Conservatives silent on whether Susan Hall has received cash from race row donor

When asked at a lunch with Westminster reporters if she wanted to see Ms Abbott back in the Parliamentary Labour Party, Ms Rayner said: “Personally, I would like to see Diane back but the Labour Party has to follow its procedures.” She added: “And for me, that is the most important thing, that we have made sure our party is fit to govern by making sure we have got complaint procedures that are robust and people can have confidence in.

“So it doesn’t matter what I think because I don’t make that decision because it is done through a panel, it has gone through experts, and I’m not involved in that process.” Ms Rayner, who served in former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet alongside Ms Abbott, said she and party leader Sir Keir following reforms made after the pair took the reins “do not interfere” with the complaints process.

She added: “So yes, I share the frustration at times of how long these processes take but in (some) instances there are sensitive reasons for that.” In an earlier interview on Thursday, Sir Keir resisted calls to welcome Ms Abbott back to the party fold.

Ms Abbott, a close ally of left-wing stalwart Mr Corbyn, who in 2020 had the whip removed following his response to the equalities watchdog report into antisemitism in the party during his tenure as leader, has asked Sir Keir to restore her to his party’s parliamentary ranks.

Britain’s longest-serving black MP was the target of comments by Tory donor Frank Hester, who allegedly said in 2019 that she made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”. Sir Keir said “we must support” Ms Abbott after the recent emergence of Mr Hester’s “racist and misogynistic” remarks.

However, he said that should not be conflated with the antisemitism accusations she faces over her letter in The Observer. Following a backlash to her letter, Ms Abbott apologised for any “anguish” caused and withdrew her comments.

After a heated Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, where Sir Keir pushed Rishi Sunak to give back Mr Hester’s £10 million donations, the Labour leader went over to Diane Abbott to show his support. Diane Abbott, who is still with Labour, told him: “You could restore the whip.”

But the next day, Sir Keir explained that Diane’s suspension was a totally different thing from the racism issue and said people should not mix them up. “That was about allegations of antisemitism in relation to a letter… which is subject to an ongoing investigation, which is separate from me. That’s not something which I conduct,” he said to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2.

He mentioned that the “independent process” looking into it is still not finished. Sir Keir also said that Diane Abbott has had to deal with more nasty treatment than any other MP. “We absolutely need to put our arm around her and give her support in relation to that,” he said.

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