Diane Abbott says she has been banned from standing for Labour at election

<span>Diane Abbott was suspended by Labour after writing an article that appeared to play down racism against Jewish people.</span><span>Photograph: Beresford Hodge/Reuters</span>
Diane Abbott was suspended by Labour after writing an article that appeared to play down racism against Jewish people.Photograph: Beresford Hodge/Reuters

Diane Abbott has confirmed she has been banned from standing as a Labour MP at the next election, bringing to an end a near 40-year career as one of the party’s highest-profile politicians.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington issued a statement to broadcasters on Wednesday morning confirming she had been handed back the Labour whip after a months-long investigation into her conduct, but would not be allowed to stand again as a Labour candidate.

The decision leaves Abbott, the first black woman to be elected to the British parliament, likely to head out of parliament having sat as an MP since 1987.

According to the BBC, Abbott said: “Although the whip has been restored, I am banned for standing as a Labour candidate.”

Separately, Abbott said on X she was “dismayed” that reports overnight suggested she was being barred as a candidate, reflecting a chaotic 24 hours in which her political future hung in the balance.

She appeared to suggest she would not stand as an independent candidate to challenge Labour, tweeting: “Naturally I am delighted to have the Labour Whip restored and to be a member of the PLP. Thank you to all those who supported me along the way. I will be campaigning for a Labour victory.”

Abbott did not respond to a request to comment further.

Her allies had previously said she had not been informed of a reported decision to ban her from standing as a Labour candidate. Reports on Wednesday suggested she had wanted to announce her own retirement but was caught off guard by a story in the Times saying she would be barred from standing for Labour.

Abbott was suspended from the party last year after writing a letter to the Observer that appeared to play down racism against Jewish people. She argued that minority groups such as Jewish people, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people faced similar levels of prejudice to people with red hair.

Abbott apologised for her remarks, was placed under investigation and lost the Labour whip.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, sparked some hope among Abbott’s allies when he defended her this year after the Guardian revealed she had been the subject of racist remarks by the Conservatives’ biggest donor, Frank Hester.

Starmer praised Abbott at the time as a “trailblazer”, adding: “She has probably faced more abuse than any other politician over the years on a sustained basis.”

Abbott’s friends were dismayed that she did not get the whip back in the subsequent weeks.

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Starmer said this week that the investigation into her conduct was ongoing. But it emerged on Tuesday it had concluded in December, with Abbott being told to complete an online antisemitism training course in February.

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, said on Wednesday: “The Labour party has been telling everybody this investigation into Diane Abbott is ongoing, [but] it now appears it concluded months ago. So really it’s a question for them to clear this all up, what happened when, be transparent about it.”

John McTernan, a former adviser to Tony Blair, described the events of the last 24 hours as “a mess that could have been avoided”.

Jacqueline McKenzie, a lawyer at Leigh Day and a friend of Abbott, told the BBC on Wednesday: “What was really astonishing was the fact that just this week we saw Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, as well as senior officials saying that an investigation was still under way. I think it’s really incumbent upon them to explain. Have they been honest about this process? And I think that’s what’s really shocking.”

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a decision for the Labour party’s national executive committee.”

He sought to put Abbott’s case in the context of Starmer’s desire to clamp down on antisemitism in the party. “Keir Starmer, when he talks about improving standards in the Labour party, he really meant it,” he said.

Asked on Times Radio whether he felt comfortable about the way Abbott’s case had been handled, Streeting said: “No, not particularly.”