UK actors and writers call out ‘systemic racism’ over Abbott treatment

2 months ago
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LONDON (Reuters) – Prominent Black Britons have criticised the opposition Labour Party’s treatment of Britain’s first Black woman lawmaker after a row over whether she could stand as a candidate overshadowed the election campaign.

Diane Abbott, Britain’s longest serving Black member of parliament who was first elected in 1987, had been suspended by the party for over a year after she said Jewish, Irish and Traveller people did not face racism all their lives.

Abbott, who apologised for the remarks, was reinstated to the party this week but media reports have said she will be barred from running in her northeast London district in Britain’s parliamentary election on July 4.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said no final decision has been taken but his deputy, Angela Rayner, and the party’s leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, have both said the left-wing Abbott should be recognised as a trailblazer in British politics, and selected as a candidate.

Black actors, writers and broadcasters signed an open letter on Friday stating that Abbott’s treatment, with an investigation taking over a year, indicated “systemic racism” and a “determination to humiliate her”.

“Coming from a community where discrimination is a daily reality, we know unfairness when we see it,” it said.

Starmer, the country’s former chief prosecutor, took over the Labour leadership in April 2020, shortly before the equalities watchdog accused the party of discrimination against Jews under the leadership of his predecessor, the veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer vowed to rid the party of anti-Semitism. He has also been accused of purging left-wing members to move it back to the centre of British politics and make it more electable.

The signatories to the letter, including actors Lenny Henry and David Harewood, author Yemi Adegoke, and broadcaster Afua Hirsh, said Labour seemed to have made a strategic decision that “the black and brown vote doesn’t matter”, but said their loyalty was not unconditional.

Labour didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

Labour is leading Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party by around 20 points in opinion polls. The deadline for nominations closes on June 7, though Labour is expected to announce its candidates before that.

Starmer has praised Abbott for her role in the party but declined to say whether he thinks she should continue as a lawmaker.…Read more by

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