April 13, 2024

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Diane Abbott: MP criticizes Speaker for disdain to discuss race dispute

Diane Abbott: MP criticizes Speaker for disdain to discuss race dispute

  • Written by Sam Francis
  • Political correspondent, BBC News

Image source, board of the Public

Diane Abbott, Speaker of the House of Commons, accused the failure of democracy by not allowing her to speak during a debate that focused on statements about her.

Alleged comments by a Tory donor that Ms Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” dominated half an hour of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

The MP repeatedly tried to ask the Prime Minister a question but it was not chosen.

A spokesman for the Speaker of the House said he had “run out of time” to contact Ms Abbott.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly rejected MPs' calls to repay £10m Tory donations from Frank Hester, who Ms Abbott was said to have made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

The Prime Minister said Mr Hester's alleged comments were “wrong” and “racist” – but the businessman had apologized and his “remorse should be accepted”.

Ms Abbott was sitting on the opposition benches during the weekly question session, but was not given the opportunity despite standing, trying to attract the Speaker of Parliament's attention, an estimated 37 times.

In a social media post afterwards, Ms Abbott said Sir Lindsay Hoyle had failed the House of Commons and “democracy”.

She added: “I do not know whose interests the Speaker of the House of Representatives believes he is serving.”

A spokesman for the Speaker of the House of Representatives said: “During Prime Minister’s Questions, the Speaker must select MPs from both sides of the House on a rotating basis to achieve fairness.

“This is done within a limited time frame, with the Chair giving priority to members already listed on the order paper. This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to contact all members who wanted to ask a question.”

She regularly accused the Conservative Party of “stirring up racism in this country, including directed against me personally” – including posters referring to Ms Abbott as a danger during the 2017 general election.

Ms Abbott also accused Labor of failing to condemn Hester's alleged comments early enough, as well as neglecting to address internal racism and sexism.

Before the debate, Ms Abbott said Mr Hester's alleged comment that she needed to “shoot her” was “creepy”.

Both Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and Stephen Flynn, the Scottish National leader of Westminster, raised Mr Hester's alleged comments with the Prime Minister.

Once the discussion was over, Ms Abbott was seen shaking her head after not being called upon to speak.

Labor MP Charlotte Nicholls described the Speaker's decision as “really bad”.

“If Diane wanted to talk, instead of talking about her, she should have had the opportunity to do so,” Nichols said in a social media post.

A Labor spokesman echoed these comments, saying after the debate that “it was good for the House to be able to hear from” Ms Abbott.

As the PMQ meetings ended, Sir Keir and Flynn approached Ms Abbott at the back of the room, along with a series of Labor MPs.

During the conversation, Ms Abbott reportedly repeatedly asked Sir Keir to take back her party whip.

He reportedly replied: “I understand.”

Ms Abbott – who is running as an independent MP after being suspended by Labor – had previously called for “public support from Keir Starmer” following Mr Hester's comments.