Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/626/9589
Diane Abbott and the Labour Party leadership battle
Diane Abbott's entry into the race for the Labour Party leadership has thrown a banana skin under the feet of the 'Labour Left' in their quest to secure the 33 nominations needed to get John McDonnell's name on the ballot paper. So where does she sit in the Labour political spectrum?
Mick Cotter, Hackney Socialist Party
Through the wonders of Google, I came up with this word to describe her: 'tergiversant' (to change sides or loyalties; apostatise to be evasive or ambiguous; equivocate). Like most Labour MPs she puts herself and her career above all else.
On her own website, after pointing out that in 1987 she made history by becoming the first black woman to be elected to the British parliament, it egotistically states: "She has since built a distinguished career as a parliamentarian, broadcaster and commentator".
Last summer she wrote an article supporting Gordon Brown as party leader, whilst in 2007 she was listed as a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and supported McDonnell in the last leadership election. She is not listed as supporting the 'People's Charter'.
She opposed the 'Blair wars' yet voted against an inquiry. She also most notably sent her son to a private school to the outrage of many of her Hackney constituents. When questioned about this she replied: "In 2001, when my son was facing secondary transfer, the average numbers of boys nationally getting five GCSE A-Cs was 42%. In Hackney the average number of black boys getting the same result was 9%. And the school in Hackney that we were actually offered was so poor that it closed shortly afterwards.
But since then: a Labour government has poured money into Hackney schools; a series of excellent academies has opened in the borough; attainment levels overall in Hackney have gone up. So if he was transferring to secondary school now, I would not face the same dilemma." So she presumably supports academies.
Did I also mention her chummy late night - on the couch - TV slot with Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo?
It should therefore be easy for me to be critical of her for splitting the already small left forces within Labour, and yet incredibly John McDonnell has this to say about her entry into the race: "I welcome Diane's candidacy and urge other women and ethnic candidates to come forward from all wings of the party. We need a full and wide ranging debate about our future direction."
We, in the Socialist Party, have lent support to McDonnell's leadership campaign, but this attitude towards Abbott must question his seriousness, and confidence in the campaign to reclaim the Labour Party. The likelihood of a Blairite/Brownite leader, be it a Mili-bland or a Balls or Burnham, will be even more assured. I know a leadership contest isn't the 'be all and end all' of a campaign, but in a party, empty as it is of any real class fighters, this episode is hardly going to inspire the masses to flood to the cause.
In The Socialist 26 May 2010:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis