Diane Abbott has Labour whip suspended over comments on 'white racism'

​Diane Abbott has had the Labour whip suspended after comments she made suggesting Jewish, Irish and Traveller people are not subject to racism "all their lives".

Ms Abbott, who served as Jeremy Corbyn's shadow home secretary, wrote in a letter in The Observer that although white people "with points of difference" suffer prejudice, they have not suffered the same racism as black people.

Following a backlash, including from a Tory Cabinet minister, she apologised for any "anguish" caused, suggesting "errors arose" in her initial draft letter to the newspaper.

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However, Labour confirmed the whip has been suspended from her pending an investigation into the letter.

Diane Abbott. Picture: PADiane Abbott. Picture: PA
Diane Abbott. Picture: PA

A party spokesman said: "The Labour Party completely condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong. The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation."

Ms Abbott said on Twitter: "I am writing regarding my letter that was recently published in The Observer. I wish to wholly and unreservedly withdraw my written remarks and disassociate myself from them.

"The errors arose in an initial draft being sent. But there is no excuse and I wish to apologise for any anguish caused.

"Racism takes many forms and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects, as have Irish people, Travellers and many others.

"Once again, I would like to apologise publicly for the remarks and any distress caused as a result of them."

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP had been responding to a comment that suggested Irish, Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from racism in the UK.

She wrote: "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.

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"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."

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said Ms Abbott's letter in the Observer was "deeply offensive" and commended the party's move to swiftly suspend her.

"Diane Abbott's letter was deeply offensive and deeply depressing," she tweeted.

"Keir Starmer's response is right. No excuses. No delays. The comments will be investigated and she has been immediately suspended."

Energy secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter: "Once again, Jewish people have to wake up and see a Labour MP casually spouting hateful anti-Semitism. @Keir_Starmer are you actually going to do anything?"

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: "Diane Abbott's claim that Jewish people cannot suffer racism is outrageous in itself, but made all the more extraordinary given all that has unfolded in the Labour Party over the past few years.

"She and her allies on the far left of the party could never accept how bad anti-Semitism had become because they do not even acknowledge that it is a form of racism.”