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Diane Abbott: The job race investigation concluded last year

  • Author, Victoria Derbyshire
  • Role, Evening news

Labor’s investigation into Diane Abbott over her racist comments ended in December 2023, BBC Newsnight can reveal.

Ms Abbott, a long-serving MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, was given a formal warning over her conduct and required to complete an “anti-Semitism awareness course”.

A source close to the veteran politician said she had still not been told whether she would be eligible to stand in the general election as Labor’s candidate in her constituency.

Ms Abbott was suspended as a Labor MP 13 months ago after suggesting that Jews, Irish and Travelers had not been victims of racism “all their lives”.

She apologized on X, formerly known as Twitter, and withdrew her remarks.

A source close to Ms Abbott said she did not expect her suspension to be lifted. They accused the party of having a “predetermined result” and “dragging out the process in order to prevent her from standing in the elections.”

Labor told Newsnight it does not comment on disciplinary matters.

In December 2023, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) wrote to Ms Abbott saying it had concluded an eight-month investigation into her comments.

He issued her a “formal warning” for “engaging in conduct which the National Electoral Commission found to be damaging and grossly damaging to the Labor Party”.

It said she was expected to take part in an “online e-learning module,” which the source said was a two-hour anti-Semitism awareness course.

Ms Abbot completed the module in February, after which it is understood she received an email from the Labor leader confirming she had completed it.

On Friday, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer told BBC News that Diane Abbott “is in, participating in, and coming to an end because of something she said.”

He said “this will be sorted out within a few days as the deadline for candidate submissions is approaching.”

Ms Abbott currently sits as an independent MP and is unable to represent Labor in the House of Commons. She has been an MP since 1987, the first black woman elected to Parliament and a loyal supporter of former party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

She is said to be “furious, depressed and tired” of the way she says the party has treated her, but is heartened by the support of activists in her constituency.

Her suspension came after she wrote in a letter to the Observer newspaper that Irish people, Jews and travelers “undoubtedly experience prejudice” which she said was “akin to racism.”

The letter added: “It is true that many types of white people with differences, such as redheads, may experience such prejudice.

“But not all of their lives are subject to racism.”

In her apology, Ms Abbott said there were “errors” in the initial draft submitted, adding: “But there is no excuse and I would like to apologize for any distress caused.”

BBC Newsnight understands that Ms Abbott explained to the NEC that the “preliminary draft” was the only version that had been written.

Sir Keir condemned Ms Abbott’s comments the day after the letter was published as anti-Semitic, stating that “we can never accept that there is some hierarchy of racism”.

The party said it had put in place an independent complaints process to deal with the cases.

Asked whether Abbott would return to the Labor Party, Shadow Secretary of State for Business Jonathan Reynolds told the BBC: “Frankly, the process we have in the Labor Party is not a process set by any Labor politician, so I can’t give you an answer in this case.”

“We want this situation resolved, we all want it resolved,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

“I think that in every disciplinary case, the involvement of both parties is needed. I really don’t have any additional information beyond that.”

For more on this story, watch Newsnight on BBC2 at 10.30pm BST or on BBC iPlayer.