Diane Abbott’s letter to the Observer was offensive, historically illiterate, and an unbelievable gift to her opponents inside and outside of the Labour Party.
However, Diane Abbott should not have been suspended by Labour leader Keir Starmer. Her letter was not antisemitic, and I don’t believe that Starmer or any other Labour right-winger thinks that she is. That is clearly a factional move against one of the most prominent left Labour MPs. She apologised immediately and disowned the comments. She should be immediately reinstated.
Abbott was the first Black female MP and has suffered the most awful racism throughout her career and especially in recent years.
The original letter implied that antisemitism is not a form of racism. She was wrong. It is. To equate antisemitism to making fun of redheads (I’m one) is so utterly wrong as to make you wonder who could have written such a stupid comment. Her comments were inevitably going to be used against her.
There is antisemitic racism in Britain and across the world, today. Why on earth would anyone want or need to embark on an argument about who suffers more racism?
She said Jewish people weren’t made to sit at the back of the bus in pre-civil rights USA. Six million jews were executed by the Nazis. Between 200,000 – 500,000 Roma and Sinti were executed by the Nazis. They still face racism today, as do Travellers.
We must fight all forms of racism, bringing all together, rather than separate one group from another.
Despite Abott’s unequivocal and forthright apology there are many on the left who are defending her original comments, insisting that she was completely correct.
Some argue that antisemitism isn’t racism. This is not only wrong, it is offensive, and harmful to the left. It undermines the left when trying to argue that the extent of antisemitism in the Labour Party has been exaggerated for political purposes – to purge the left.
Others are suggesting alternative explanations of what she was trying to say. Unfortunately, she didn’t say what those people are suggesting she meant. What she said was clear and unambiguous. If she had wanted to say something else, she could have taken a bit more care and said it.
When our ‘leaders’ make mistakes, we should not seek to excuse or minimise the mistakes. Diane Abbott has been an MP for 36 years. She should have known better and been more careful.
But the whole affair shows that we what we say and how we say it has consequences.
The letter was an unnecessary gift to her opponents which may well prevent her from standing for Labour at the next general election.