Solidarity with Diane Abbot

The Socialist Health Association unequivocally and emphatically condemns the racist comments reportedly made towards Diane Abbott by Frank Hester in 2019, which have been shared across the national media this week. These comments include an incitement to violence and were underpinned by a visceral hatred based on race and gender. They will have been triggering and deeply upsetting not only to Diane Abbott, but to millions of people across the country and our thoughts are with everyone affected.

Mr Hester’s comments about Diane Abbott were not an isolated incident and former employees have raised allegations of racism against him. We are disappointed by the response of both the Government and Labour Party. No 10 initially refused to admit that the remarks were racist and Rishi Sunak still refuses to return Mr Hester’s £15 million donation to the Conservative Party.

However while Labour has capitalised on the opportunity to attack one of the Conservative Party’s largest donors, they have provided little support to Diane Abbott herself, who has described the comments as “frightening”. She remains suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party for comments made almost one year ago, for which she promptly apologised. During this period, Labour MP Neil Coyle had the whip withdrawn for racially abusing a journalist in a Parliamentary bar, only to be reinstated some weeks later. Today, 13th March 2024, at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, refused to allow Diane Abbott to speak in a debate about her; and Keir Starmer heaped plaudits on Theresa May, the architect of the hostile environment, while failing to recognise the significant achievements of Diane Abbott’s career. Diane Abbott is the longest serving black MP in Parliament, having entered Parliament in 1987 as this country’s first black female MP. Throughout her career, she has stood up for the oppressed, from occupied Palestinians to those impacted by the Windrush scandal in the UK and many more. She has served on Treasury and Foreign Affairs Select Committees and as Shadow Secretary for International Development and Health before becoming the first black female Shadow Home Secretary. In 2019, she became the first black MP to appear at the dispatch box, as stand-in for the Leader of the Opposition at PMQ’s.

Amnesty International, in a 2017 analysis of tweets mentioning female MP’s, found that Diane Abbott received “an incredibly disproportionate amount of abuse” and was the target of almost one-third of all abusive tweets analysed, rising to almost half (45%) in the six weeks preceding the 2017 election. As stated by Amnesty International, “Online violence can be just as severe as experiences of violence offline. It may affect women’s human rights to safety, freedom of expression, participation in public life, and may also cause severe psychological harm, among other things.”

We call on the Tories to immediately return all donations from Mr Hester and the Government to review all public sector contracts, which include NHS contracts, with his company, The Phoenix Partnership.

We call upon the Labour Party, to whom we are affiliated, to restore the whip to Diane Abbott without delay, and to do all in its power to ensure her safety and freedom from fear. Furthermore, we urge the Labour Party to implement fully the recommendations of the Forde report. We ask Keir Starmer to openly and unequivocally express his support for Diane Abbott, regardless of political differences, and acknowledge with gratitude her decades of public service to Hackney residents, the country and the Labour Party.

Report this and other hate crimes here.

Sign the petition calling for the whip to be restored to Diane Abbott here.