Diane Abbott faces sexism, racism and threats of violence
Perhaps no MP in recent British history has had to face years of internal and external racial bigotry than Diane Abbott MP.
In one week alone a Government Minister David Davis subjected Ms Abbott to sexism, racism and a level of patronising that demeans our democracy.
After last week’s Brexit vote it was widely reported that the Brexit Minister David Davis patronisingly attempted to kiss Abbott on the cheek for voting with the Government in regards to Article 50, which officially triggers the UK to leave the EU. When the news that Abbott brushed aside his 'smugness' with an abrupt, ‘f.. k off’, Davis then made matters worse by telling a friend in a leaked private text, when quizzed about that ‘kiss’, “I’m not blind you know”.
Davis has been quick to apologies to Diane both for his conduct and utterly disparaging remarks. But the sexism and racism inside the House of Commons is nothing compared that the extreme racial hatred Abbott has to endure outside.
Just last week a Conservative Parish Councillor was suspended after sharing a tweet that portrayed Abbott, the shadow home secretary, as an ape wearing lipstick who should be in a zoo.
A member of Abbott’s team suggested this was just the tip of iceberg, and criticised the police for failing to act on a series of previous complaints over death and rape threats despite “growing concern for [Abbott’s] safety”.
The team member went on to say that:
"In fact our office has reported many that are either racist, sexist, threatening or all three. Not once, not ever, has there been some sort of result, or have we been told that anyone has been reprimanded,”
This is all worrying on two levels: First and foremost, for Diane Abbott’s safety: The rise in white supremist activity, along with racial hatred and misogyny should deeply concern the police authorities not least because of what tragically occurred to the Oldham MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a self proclaimed white supremist. Furthermore, this low level racism by members of parliament, to which David Davis is not the only MP, would make any Black person, male or female question whether nor not they would want to be in that work environment.
Operation Black Vote along with other Black NGO’s included BARAC and the Society of Black Lawyers have signed a letter calling upon the authorities including the London Mayor to take urgent action. In the letter it states:
"We are deeply concerned, that despite reporting serious threats of violence and being subjected to extreme racist intimidation, the Metropolitan Police Services appears to have learned no lessons from the tragic murder of John Jo Cox MP. We call upon the London Mayor Sadiq Khan to launch an investigation into the apparent failure of the police to investigate these reported incidents. We are deeply concerned for the safety of Ms Abbott and that of her staff.”
Anyone who knows Diane Abbot will testify she is a strong proud Black woman who has constantly faced hostility because of her race, gender and her socialist beliefs. But she is only human too, and this deluge of abuse and hatred not only affects her, but also her family and her ability to serve effectively as a Member of Parliament.
In part, sexism and Islamaphobia have already driven out one prominent BME politician, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Let’s ensure Diane Abbott has both the security and assurances both inside and outside of Parliament to effectively do the job she deeply loves.