Diane Abbott’s letter was ‘deeply wrong, historically wrong, and offensive’, says shadow minister

Diane Abbott has had the Labour whip suspended pending an investigation after the MP wrote a letter suggesting Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as some other minorities.

Ms Abbott, the former shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, apologised over the comments and said the letter published in The Observer had been an “initial draft” sent by mistake.

Ms Abbott’s letter stated that Jewish, Irish and traveller communities have experienced “prejudice”, but added: “This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.”

A spokesperson for Labour said yesterday: “The Labour party completely condemns these comments which are deeply offensive and wrong.

“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation”.

It means that Diane Abbott will now sit in the Commons as an independent MP until the Labour party decides otherwise.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden labelled Ms Abbott’s letter “deeply wrong, historically wrong, and offensive”.

Mr McFadden said: “I can’t put myself in her mind, I can only express a view on what she wrote, which was wrong, and it’s indisputable that Jewish people, for example, have suffered terrible racism, both in history, and it’s still going on today.

“So, the chief whip and the party leader had no choice but to take the action they did yesterday.”

He added: “I think when it comes to the awful history of racism, one thing we shouldn’t do is try to establish a hierarchy or suggest that one group’s experience counts more than others.”

Mr McFadden said that Sir Keir Starmer is “determined to turn the page on the culture that had come in to the Labour Party under the previous leadership. He’s deeply genuine about making that change.”

He said that he was “sure” that Ms Abbott’s apology is genuine, but would not comment on whether Ms Abbott should stand down at the next election, saying: “It’s not for me to decide who should be a candidate, but it is for me to say what I think the Labour Party should stand for”.

He continued: “My view is that the views in her letter were deeply wrong, historically wrong, they were offensive to people, and the Labour Party has to stand for treating everybody with human dignity, regardless of race or creed.

“That’s a lesson we should have learned a long time ago, and it’s certainly one we should learn today”.

Ms Abbott’s short letter, which is still online, provoked a furious reaction on social media on Sunday morning before the Labour MP issued an apology.

“I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks and disassociate myself from them”, said the Labour MP in a statement on Sunday morning. “The errors arose in an initial draft being sent. But there is no excuse, and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused”.

Ms Abbott added: “Racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others. Once again, I would like to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them.”

The government’s independent advisor on antisemitism, Lord John Mann, has this morning called on Ms Abbott to stand down at the next general election, describing her comments as “beyond the pale”.

“My overwhelming emotion is one of sadness. I’ve been around Westminster for 30 years, and in that time, the person who’s had the worst racism directed against them is Diane Abbott.”

“I think the apology should have been clearer. People have been offended. And where’s this coming from? I have no idea where she’s coming from in this. It’s quite appalling, and I think we’re seeing a sad end to what has been quite a prominent political career”, he said.