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Diane Abbott denies she ‘refused to take antisemitism course to rejoin Labour’

Diane Abbott has denied a report that she was offered the Labour whip back but refused because she would have had to go on antisemitism training.

It comes as senior Labour senior figures appear split on whether to welcome the long-serving MP back into the party fold.

An investigation has been ongoing into antisemitism accusations against her since her suspension last April.

It came after she wrote a letter to The Observer suggesting Jewish, Irish and Traveller people were not subject to racism “all their lives”.

Following a backlash, she apologised for any “anguish” caused and withdrew her comments.

The row this week over alleged racist comments by major Conservative donor Frank Hester – that Ms Abbott made him want to “hate all black women” and “should be shot” – has sparked questions over why the probe has already taken 10 months.

Ms Abbott on Friday rejected “key facts” in a report by the Independent, which said her own refusal to compromise was in part to blame.

Citing unnamed sources in the party, the newspaper reported she was given the opportunity to be reinstated as a Labour MP if she gave a more fulsome apology and took an antisemitism awareness course.

Ms Abbott, who is now sitting as an independent MP, wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “A blatantly shoddy piece of journalism.

“I told the reporter that all the key ‘facts’ in his piece were false – on the record. Instead, he has led with the unattributable briefings from Labour party sources.

“The facts can be verified by LP. On the record.”

Labour declined to comment “on individual cases”.

Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the ‘independent’ investigation into Diane Abbott was ‘not resolved’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

While Sir Keir Starmer said Ms Abbott should receive “support” in relation to the abuse she receives, he has resisted calls to restore her to his party’s parliamentary ranks.

The Labour leader on Thursday said her suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party was “an entirely different issue” and subject to an independent process that was separate from him.

But his deputy Angela Rayner has been among those to say she would like Ms Abbott to be allowed back into the party.

Ms Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, expressed confidence that she would contest the general election later this year as the Labour candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Speaking a rally in support of her on Friday night, she told Channel 4 News: “I have temporarily lost the whip. But I’m completely confident that Keir Starmer will restore it.”

She said the supporters that had gathered in Hackney, including Jeremy Corbyn, had given her “a lot of strength after what has been a very difficult week”.

“I’m sure that Keir Starmer will look at the strength of feeling and he will do the right thing.”

She said “no Conservative has apologised” after the emergence of Mr Hester’s 2019 comments about her, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described as “racist” while refusing to return the £10 million he donated to the Tory Party.

Ms Abbott said: “They keep saying that the Hester guy, he’s apologised. He’s not apologised. He’s apologised for being rude, whereas in fact he was racist, and he’s not apologised for that.

“In fact, he was inciting violence. He’s not apologised for that.”

Mr Sunak has faced mounting calls to pay back Mr Hester’s donations, including from within his own ranks, but has argued that the healthcare tech entrepreneur’s apology should be accepted.