Keir Starmer utterly condemns Diane Abbott in first public comments

Diane Abbott sorry after suggesting that Jews don't face racism

Sir Keir Starmer has said he “utterly condemns” comments made by Diane Abbott over the weekend. Ms Abbott was stripped of the whip yesterday following her letter to The Observer newspaper, meaning she will sit as an independent MP in the Commons. In her letter, the veteran Labour MP suggested Jews only suffer prejudice similar to that of people with red hair and are not subject to racism “all their lives”.

While a Labour spokesperson said her comments were “deeply offensive and wrong”, this is the first time Sir Keir has spoken out directly on the issue.

He told GB News: “What she wrote yesterday, I utterly condemn and I said we would tear out antisemitism by its roots. I meant it, and thats why we acted so swiftly yesterday.

“I think its a mark of how far the Labour party has changed that we acted so swiftly and that we take it so seriously.

“And I condemn what she said.”

Following backlash, Ms Abbott yesterday issued an apology and blamed it on the letter being an “initial draft”.

In her letter, Ms Abbott – who made history as the first black woman MP – responded to a comment piece which suggested that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from racism in the UK.

She said: “Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from ‘racism’.

“They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.”

Ms Abbott added: “It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism.

“In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote.

“And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

Speaking in February, Sir Keir said that anti-semitism is “an evil” and “no political party that cultivates it deserves to hold power”.

This came after the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it had concluded its monitoring of Labour over anti-semitism within the party. 

Jeremy Corbyn, a close ally of Ms Abbott, was suspended from the parliamentary party over his response to EHRC’s damning report in 2020 and now sits as an independent MP.

Sir Keir warned anyone who plays down antisemitism will be treated with “zero patience or tolerance”, acknowledging it is not “the end of the road” for tackling the issue.

He said: “I understand that some people won’t like the changes we’ve made but I say this with all candour, the Labour Party is unrecognisable from 2019 and it will never go back.

“It will never again be a party captured by narrow interest, it will never again lose sight of its purpose or its morals.

“And it will never again be brought to its knees by racism or bigotry.

“If you don’t like that, if you don’t like the changes we’ve made, I say the door is open and you can leave.”

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