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Diane Abbott row threatens to derail Labour’s NHS campaign pledge

29 May 2024 4 minute read
Diane Abbott. Photo Yui Mok PA Wire/PA Images

A row over whether veteran MP Diane Abbott will be allowed to stand for Labour in the General Election is threatening to overshadow Sir Keir Starmer’s pitch to voters on the NHS.

Labour is setting its sights on tackling NHS backlogs, with leader Sir Keir detailing first steps to clear waits of more than 18 weeks within five years of taking office.

But in the latest sign of his willingness to pick a fight with the party left, Ms Abbott claimed she has been banned from standing for the party in her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat.

Ms Abbott had the Labour whip suspended in April 2023 pending an investigation after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice, but not racism.

Barred from standing

The whip was restored on Tuesday, but Ms Abbott has claimed she has been barred from standing on July 4.

“Although the whip has been restored, I am banned from standing as a Labour candidate,” she told the BBC.

But a Labour source questioned her claim to have been banned from standing for the party, suggesting it might be an attempt to “bounce” party leaders into a deal ahead of a meeting of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

The source said: “(I’m) not quite sure that’s right – the NEC is due to finalise candidate endorsements on Tuesday.

“I think this may be an attempt to bounce Loto (Leader of the Opposition’s Office) into some sort of deal.”

Trailblazer

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Ms Abbott, the UK’s first black woman to be elected to Parliament in 1987, is a “trailblazer” but that it is a “decision for the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee” whether she can stand.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have no idea (of) the basis upon which the decision is made.”

Meanwhile, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – an ally of Ms Abbott – will launch his campaign as an independent candidate in Islington North.

On NHS policy, Labour warned that the treatment backlog, which currently stands at 7.54 million, could rise to 10 million if the Conservatives are in office for another five years.

Measures Labour would take include creating an additional 40,000 appointments, scans and operations in England each week during evenings and weekends and doubling the numbers of scanners.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins criticised the plans as “more ‘copy and paste’ politics from Labour” while highlighting the Tories’ long-term workforce plan and £3.4 billion plan to upgrade NHS technology.

Institute for Fiscal Studies

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said achieving Labour’s goal would be “highly stretching” because “the challenging fiscal situation facing the next government will make it incredibly difficult to increase health spending at anywhere near similar rates” as previous Labour governments, which made big reductions in waiting times alongside spending increases of more than 7% a year in real terms.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak arrived in Cornwall after taking the sleeper train overnight, pushing a plan to create 100,000 more apprenticeships by shutting down “rip-off” degrees.

The Prime Minister wants to see the worst-performing university courses replaced with high-skilled apprenticeships if the Conservatives stay in power after the General Election.

He said his party is offering young people “the employment opportunities and financial security they need to thrive” as he seeks to narrow Labour’s double-digit lead in the polls.

The law would be changed to give England’s universities watchdog new powers to shut down courses deemed as underperforming.

Silver bullet

Mr Sunak said: “Improving education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for boosting life chances. So it’s not fair that some university courses are ripping young people off.

“Thanks to our plan, apprenticeships are much higher quality than they were under Labour. And now we will create 100,000 more, by putting an end to rip-off degrees and offering our young people the employment opportunities and financial security they need to thrive.”

An additional 5.8 million apprenticeships have been delivered under Conservative governments since 2010, with 340,000 starting in 2022/23, the Tories said.

But Labour pointed out that apprenticeship achievements among under-19s are down 50% since 2015/16, while starts have dropped by at least 30% in every English region.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “It is laughable that the Tories, who have presided over a halving of apprenticeships for young people, are now announcing this.”

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “The shockingly low pay for those on apprenticeships will remain, doing nothing to encourage more people to take apprenticeships up or tackle soaring drop-out rates.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 days ago

A month of ‘make believe’ from the press office of @Slash, Burn and Obfuscate UK…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
20 days ago

‘Rip off’ degrees. They are all a rip off that leave students mired in debt but I also remember Thatcher bleating on about ‘choice’. Here, Sunak is removing choice. ‘Boosting life chances’ says the proliferator of poverty in chief.

Jenny Taylor
Jenny Taylor
20 days ago

I am a labour voter. If Dianne Abbott is allowed back in the Labour Party I shall be voting for someone else

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
20 days ago
Reply to  Jenny Taylor

You are happy with a labour party that welcomes as a member the right wing, anti migrant natalie elphicke, are you?

CapM
CapM
20 days ago
Reply to  Jenny Taylor

Nice to see someone from Hackney North or Stoke Newington taking an interest in a Welsh news site.


Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
20 days ago
Reply to  Jenny Taylor

WHY? what has she done? Have you swallowed all the lies the Media promote about her? Most People are leaving Labour because of Starmer and his lies and deviousness.

Maesglas
Maesglas
20 days ago

We are seeing new deceitful tactics here. Starmer is doing what he tries to do so often when dealing with difficult decisions—pretending he has nothing to do with it. It’s absurd. He will say anything that casts him in the best voter light. I wouldn’t trust anything he or his Shadow Cabinet say.

Adrian
Adrian
20 days ago

She’d be a liability to any party with the amount of idiotic stuff she does & says.This debacle is all about her writing something that was clearly racist, submitting it for publication and then claiming it was a draft. It was never remotely believable.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
20 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

What Diane says and does is far more interesting than the diatribe you usually spout on this website!

CapM
CapM
20 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

“clearly racist,”
A bit harsh. What she wrote in a clumsy way that many found offensive was basically saying that black people experience more racism than ethnic groups that are white or perhaps can pass as being white. I imagine it was based to a large degree on personal experience and observations.

I can’t really totally disagree with her as I don’t think that a – it either is or it isn’t binary is something as complicated as racism can be summed up as.
Lots of degrees in between that can also differ with time, place, etc.

Last edited 20 days ago by CapM
Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
20 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

She is a loved and very active MP in her Constituency, The so called ‘letter’ has been discounted as a ploy for Starmer to get rid of another left Wing ‘ Member. who has served the Party loyally for 40 years!

John Ellis
John Ellis
19 days ago

Diane Abbott has never been the most careful, cautious and considered of politicians in respect of the things which she says – perhaps especially in these hyper-scrupulous times – but what I took her to have meant in her letter to ‘The Observer’ from the very outset struck me as pretty much a statement of the obvious.

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