|Shadow Minister for Public Health|
9 October 2010 – 8 October 2013
|Preceded by||Gillian Merron|
|Succeeded by||Luciana Berger|
|Member of Parliament
for Hackney North and Stoke Newington
11 June 1987
|Preceded by||Ernie Roberts|
|Born||Diane Julie Abbott
27 September 1953
|Spouse(s)||Richard Thompson (1991–1993)|
|Alma mater||Newnham College, Cambridge|
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Diane Julie Abbott (born 27 September 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, when she became the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons. In 2010, Abbott became Shadow Public Health Minister after unsuccessfully standing for election as leader of the Labour Party but was removed in a reshuffle three years later.
Early life and career
Abbott was born to Jamaican immigrants in London in 1953. Her father was a welder and her mother a nurse. She attended Harrow County Grammar School for Girls, and then Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read history. At Cambridge, she was tutored by historian Simon Schama. She has since said that Cambridge was the making of her. After university she became an administration trainee at the Home Office (1976 to 1978), and then a Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties (1978 to 1980). Abbott was a researcher and reporter at Thames Television from 1980 to 1983 and then a researcher and reporter at the breakfast television company TV-am from 1983 to 1985. Abbott was a press officer at the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone from 1985 to 1986 and Head of Press and Public Relations at Lambeth Council from 1986 to 1987.
Abbott's career in politics began in 1982 when she was elected to Westminster City Council serving until 1986. In 1987 she was elected to the House of Commons, replacing the deselected serving Labour MP Ernest Roberts as MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington. Elected along with Keith Vaz, Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng, she was the first woman from an African Caribbean background to become an MP.
Abbott has a record of differing from some party policies, describing herself as the 'only candidate who listened and voted against the Iraq war', opposing ID cards and campaigning against the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons. She has been seen as a "maverick, a free-thinker, willing to rebel against the party machine".
Abbott's speech on civil liberties, in the debate on the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 won The Spectator magazine's "Parliamentary Speech of the Year" award and further recognition at the 2008 Human Rights awards.
Abbott has served on a number of parliamentary committees on social and international issues. For most of the 1990s she also served on the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons. She went on to serve on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
Abbott chairs the All-Party Parliamentary British-Caribbean Group and the All-Party Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Group.
Abbott is founder of the London Schools and the Black Child initiative, which aims to raise educational achievement levels amongst black children.
In May 2010, she was re-elected in her constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, with a doubled majority on an increased turn-out. She was again re-elected in 2015 with 62% of the vote.
At Goldsmiths, University of London, on 26 October 2012, a jubilee celebration was held to honour Abbott's 25 years in parliament, with a series of concerts by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kadija Sesay, and others.
She was given a score of 79% by Stonewall based on how she voted on all pro-gay rights legislation before Parliament between 2005 and 2010. On 5 February 2013 MP Diane Abbott voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on same-sex marriage in Britain.
On 23 June 2014, Abbott had stated she will consider standing in the London mayoral election, 2016, as Mayor of London. On 30 November 2014, Abbott says she is intending to put herself forward to become Labour's candidate and will stand in the London mayoral elections in 2016.
2010 leadership election and frontbench role
On 20 May 2010 Abbott announced her intention to stand in the Labour leadership contest. She secured the necessary 33 nominations by 9 June, assisted by the withdrawal of left-wing candidate John McDonnell and unexpected support from David Miliband. On Saturday 25 September 2010, Ed Miliband was announced as the new leader of the Labour Party with Abbott eliminated in the first round of voting after securing 7.24% of votes.
Abbott was later appointed Shadow Minister for Public Health by Ed Miliband, taking shadow responsibility for a range of issues including children's health, maternity services, sexual health, tobacco, nursing, obesity and alcohol abuse.
On the issue of abortion, Abbott has become a vocal ‘pro-choice’ supporter, opposing moves towards changing abortion counselling policy, and reducing the abortion time limit. Abbott resigned from a cross-party group on abortion counselling saying it was no more than a front to push forward an anti-abortion agenda without debate in parliament.
Following her move onto the front-bench, the Telegraph said on 27 September 2011 that Abbott had "become one of Labour’s best front bench performers".
On 8 October 2013, Abbott's front bench political career came to an abrupt end when she was sacked as shadow public health minister by Labour leader Ed Miliband, and replaced as Shadow Public Health Minister by Luciana Berger.
She was one of 16 signatories of an open letter to Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling on the party to commit to oppose further austerity, take rail franchises back into public ownership and strengthen collective bargaining arrangements.
Abbott has built up a high profile within the media.
Until her appointment as a shadow minister in October 2010, Abbott appeared alongside former Conservative politician and media personality Michael Portillo on the BBC's weekly politics digest This Week. Abbott and Portillo have known each other since school, when they appeared in joint school productions of Romeo and Juliet (although not in the title roles), and of Macbeth as Lady Macduff and Macduff respectively.
In August 2012 the BBC Trust ruled that payments to Abbott for her appearances on This Week were made in breach of BBC guidelines that banned payments to MPs who were representing their political parties. For her part, Abbott had correctly declared the payments in the Parliamentary Register of Members' Interests. The Trust also said that Abbott had appeared on the show too often.
Abbott is a frequent public speaker, newspaper contributor and TV performer, appearing on programmes such as Have I Got News for You, Celebrity Come Dine with Me and Cash in the Celebrity Attic.
Abbott was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for her work on London Schools and the Black Child, and remains in the directory of the Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who publication.
The education of Abbott's son
Abbott's decision in 2003 to send her son to the private City of London School after criticising colleagues for sending their children to selective schools, which she herself described as "indefensible" and "intellectually incoherent", caused controversy and criticism. This issue was discussed in the media during Abbott's 2010 bid to become leader of the Labour Party and Andrew Neil questioned her on the issue on This Week.
Her son contacted a radio phone-in to say that his mother was following his own wishes: "She's not a hypocrite, she just put what I wanted first instead of what people thought," he told LBC. He added that he had wanted to go private rather than attend a local state school in Abbott's Hackney constituency.
Failure to declare earnings
In 2004, following a complaint made by Andrew Rosindell MP, Abbott was investigated by the Committee on Standards and Privileges regarding payment she had received from the BBC. They found she had failed to declare earnings of £17,300 on the Register of Members' Interests which had been received for appearances on the television programme This Week. The Committee upheld the complaint and required Abbott to apologise to the House.
Comments on race
In 1996, Abbott attracted widespread criticism when she claimed that at her local hospital "blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls" were unsuitable as nurses because they had "never met a black person before". The secretary of the all-party Finland group of MPs, Conservative Ian Bruce, responded by accusing her of using racial stereotypes, adding: "All Scandinavian countries have people from African and Caribbean countries living there. It shows ignorance to make such remarks." Abbott's apology came as Marc Wandsworth, executive member of the Anti-Racist Alliance, who is himself half Finnish, pointed out that the present Miss Finland, Lola Odusoga, is black, of Nigerian and Finnish descent. "She's a black Finn like me" he said. Abbott's position was supported by fellow Labour MP Bernie Grant "Bringing someone here from Finland who has never seen a black person before and expecting them to have to have some empathy with black people is nonsense. Scandinavian people don't know black people—they probably don't know how to take their temperature".
On 4 January 2012, Abbott tweeted that: "White people love playing 'divide and rule' We should not play their game", which again led to widespread criticism including accusations of racism. Only after being told by the Labour Party leadership that the comment was unacceptable did she apologise for "any offence caused", claiming that she had not intended to "make generalisations about white people". The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called her comments a "stupid and crass generalisation". Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative MP, said: "This is racism. If this was a white member of Parliament saying that all black people want to do bad things to us he would have resigned within the hour or been sacked." Members of the public lodged complaints but the Metropolitan Police stated that no investigation would be launched and no charges would be brought against her, saying she "did not commit a criminal offence."
In January 2012 Abbott suggested that taxi drivers discriminate on racial grounds tweeting that she was "Dubious of black people claiming they’ve never experienced racism. Ever tried hailing a taxi I always wonder?"
Abbott married Richard Thompson, a Ghanaian architect, in 1991; they divorced in 1993. They had one son together. Abbott chose her Conservative MP voting pair, Jonathan Aitken, as her son's godfather.
In 2007, Abbott began learning the piano under the tutelage of Paul Roberts, Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, for the TV programme Play It Again. She performed Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E minor before an audience.
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- "Desert Island Discs featuring Diane Abbott". Desert Island Discs. 2008-05-18. BBC. Radio 4.
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- Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed. (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books. ISBN 0-465-00071-1. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- "UK | Magazine | Faces of the week". BBC News. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Simon Schama on the American right". BBC News. 21 August 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- "Vote 2001: Candidates: Diane Abbott". BBC. 2001. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
- Huma Qureshi "Diane Abbott: 'You can't let racism hold you back'", theguardian.com, 20 September 2012
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- "The Law Society". The Law Society. 9 December 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Diane Abbott: Labour parliamentary candidate for Hackney North". Hackney Citizen. 25 April 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
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- "Diane Abbott wins Hackney North and Stoke Newington with massive majority". Myhackney.co.uk. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Ms Diane Abbott MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
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- "A Jubilee of a Different Kind". jubileeofadifferentkind.wordpress.com. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- "Stonewall MP Voting Records 2010" (PDF). stonewall.org. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 05 Feb 2013". Parliament.uk. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
- Nicholas Cecil (23 June 2014). "'Diane Abbott is Labour supporters' top choice to run for London Mayor,' new poll reveals". Evening Standard. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- "Diane Abbott planning to run for Mayor of London". BBC News. 30 November 2014.
- "Diane Abbott goes through to next Labour leader round". BBC News. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- Chapman, James (10 June 2010). "David Miliband accused of helping Diane Abbott into Labour leadership race to damage his brother's chances". Daily Mail (London).
- Stratton, Allegra (9 June 2010). "David Miliband keeps Diane Abbott in Labour leadership race". The Guardian (London).
- "Diane Abbott appointed Shadow Junior Minister for Public Health" Hackney Gazette, 11 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010
- "The Top 100 Most Influential People on the Left 2011: 25-51". The Daily Telegraph (London). 27 September 2011.
- Diane Abbott axed as shadow health minister by Ed Miliband Daily Mail 8 October 2013
- "Reshuffle Day 2 Rolling Live Blog". Guido Fawkes Blog. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Grice, Andrew (8 October 2013). "Diane Abbott attacks Labour's stance on immigration". London: The Independent. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
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- "MP Diane in `race' rant at white nurses", The Mirror, 28 November 1996, p. 6, as reproduced on the Free Library website
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- [dead link]
- "MP Diane Abbott 'sorry' over Twitter race comments". BBC News. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
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- Ross, Tim (6 January 2012). "Diane Abbott: taxi drivers refuse to pick up black passengers". Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- "Diane Abbott", Black-History-Month.co.uk
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Diane Abbott.|
- Diane Abbott MP official constituency website
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Portraits of Diane Abbott at the National Portrait Gallery, London
- Diane Abbott: You Ask The Questions The Independent, Feb 2010
- Diane Abbott New Statesman profile
- Diane Abbott at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview with The Third Estate
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament
for Hackney North and Stoke Newington