Starmer refuses to say if he wants Abbott to stand as Labour MP

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has refused to say if he wants Diane Abbott to stand again for his party.

Ms Abbott was suspended from Labour last year after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice, but not racism, sparking a long-running process which saw her sit as an Independent MP.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Friday during a visit north of the border, Sir Keir refused to be drawn on whether he wants Ms Abbott – the first black female MP – to stand again, but praised her as a “trailblazer”.

“Diane 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,” he said.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer is visiting Scotland on Friday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He continued: “She, of course, was a trailblazer for years, she faced many challenges which she overcame in her political career.”

His comments come as Labour have faced claims of a “purge” of left-wing candidates.

As well as the questions surrounding Ms Abbott, the suspension of Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was MP for Brighton Kemptown, and the decision not to endorse candidate Faiza Shaheen in Chingford and Woodford Green have also come in for criticism.

And Ms Shaheen said she is in shock and feels she is the victim of a “huge injustice” after not being endorsed as the Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.

In response, Ms Abbott said: “Appalling. Whose clever idea has it been to have a cull of left wingers?”

Ms Shaheen was blocked after liking a series of social media posts on X, formerly Twitter, that allegedly downplayed antisemitism accusations.

In a possible sign she could run as an independent, she said “this is not the end of my story”, and she also revealed she would speak to her legal team about Labour’s decision.

But Sir Keir’s deputy Angela Rayner went further and said “I don’t think there’s any reason” why Ms Abbott should not stand and the row over her future was “not a great look”.

But Ms Rayner told the Guardian she did not think it was a “purge”.

Faiza Shaheen and Jeremy Corbyn
Faiza Shaheen, pictured with Jeremy Corbyn, was not endorsed by the party (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“We had to do that because when me and Keir took over the party was failing.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also weighed in, saying “I agree with Angela” that there was no reason Ms Abbott should not stand.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve had the disciplinary process, and she’s had the ship restored. It’s now for the NEC to do the endorsements of candidates and I hope people will recognise that Diane Abbott is a trailblazer, someone with a strong history in the Labour Party.”

Shadow science secretary Peter Kyle suggested to Times Radio that Labour was responding to a situation Ms Abbott had “got herself into”.

He also said Labour was trying to resolve the situation in a way which is “dignified”, but later told GB News that the party should not have to apologise for “raising the standards” of its members following the spate of deselections.

Mr Russell-Moyle cannot stand in the July 4 election after being suspended by Labour over what he called a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint” against him.

Ms Shaheen is consulting lawyers after the “huge injustice” as she was not endorsed as the Labour candidate to take on former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith.

This comes as former Tory MP Mark Logan joined the party.

Mr Logan, who represented Bolton North East until Parliament dissolved ahead of the election, said the Conservatives were “unrecognisable” from the party he had joined.

Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told Sky News he was disappointed by his former colleague’s decision to leave the Tories.

“I’m disappointed, and of course we’re disappointed when those things happen, but the big picture here, and there’s a lot at stake here – over and above what Mark Logan may or may not decide to have done – is the future of our country,” he said.

As campaigning continues, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will visit the North West of England, following an announcement by the Conservatives to crack down on fly-tippers with points on their driving licenses.

Sir Keir is meanwhile in Scotland, unveiling the logo and website for Labour’s proposed publicly-owned energy company GB Energy, and promising Scottish voters a “decade of national renewal”.

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