Labour must be ‘fit for the future’, says shadow minister as Diane Abbott row deepens

A Labour frontbencher has said that Labour must be “fit for the future” as the row over whether Diane Abbott will stand as a party candidate deepened on Friday. 

Peter Kyle, the shadow science secretary, said that Abbott “was a trailblazer” and praised her achievements “in the past”. 

But asked whether the veteran MP should be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the election, Kyle said: “This election though is about the future. And the NEC will be making sure that our party is fit for the future.”

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He added that Keir Starmer had “raised standards” to which Labour politicians are held since taking over as leader.

“If we are holding ourselves to extremely high standards, that means that the public can look at us and say we are a party that is fit to govern the country”

“The NEC will be making decisions about who is best to represent the Labour party today, in the 2020s looking forward. That takes away nothing from Diane Abbott’s achievements in the past.”

The comments came as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar stated that Abbott should be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate, telling BBC Breakfast that the veteran MP has “a strong history in the Labour Party”.

Asked if Abbott should be allowed to run as a candidate, he said: “I agree with Angela [Rayner]”.

On Thursday, the Labour deputy leader directly backed Abbott across a series of sit-down interviews with the BBC News, Sky News and The Guardian. “I don’t see any reason why Diane Abbott can’t stand as a Labour MP”, she said. 

Abbott was suspended by the party more than a year ago after suggesting Jewish people did not experience racism, but rather prejudice similar to red heads. She swiftly apologised over the comments and said the letter published in The Observer had been an “initial draft” sent by mistake.

How Keir Starmer lost control of the Diane Abbott row

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”.

After a lengthy investigation, which reports have suggested finished in December last year, the Labour whip was returned to Abbott earlier this week prior to parliament’s dissolution. 

Speaking on Friday morning, Labour leader Keir Starmer again refused to be drawn on whether Abbot will be barred from fighting her London seat of Hackney North and Stoke Newington. 

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “Dianne Abbott has had the whip returned to her. No decision has been taken to bar her from standing and the NEC will come to a decision in due course.” is the UK’s leading digital-only political website. Subscribe to our daily newsletter for all the latest election news and analysis.

Diane Abbott: I am barred from standing as a Labour candidate