DIANE ABBOTT

CHAMPIONS

Diane Abbott made history as the first black woman MP in 1987 and has enjoyed an eventful parliamentary career that has seen her on Labour’s front bench

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Born in London to Jamaican parents in 1953 – her father a welder and her mother a nurse – Diane Abbott read history at Newnham College, Cambridge. After graduating, she began training to become a civil servant at the Home Office. In 1978-80 she was appointed race relations officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties before working in the media, first as a researcher for Thames Television, then as press officer for the Greater London Council and head of publicity for Lambeth Council.

Diane had been politically engaged since her student days. In 1982 she was elected to Westminster council, serving for four years. During this time, she was active in the Labour Party Black Sections that was seeking greater representation for black and Asian members.

One of its major achievements was the historic election of four black MPs in 1987, which included Diane. She has represented Hackney North and Stoke Newington in London for 31 years.

Diane has served on a number of parliamentary committees and held several shadow ministerial posts. She currently chairs the All-Party Parliamentary British Caribbean Group and the All-Party Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Group, while outside of parliament she is founder of the London Schools and the Black Child initiative.

Diane unsuccessfully ran for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2010, which was won by Ed Miliband. As his shadow health minister, the Daily Telegraph, in 2011, described her as “one of Labour’s best front bench performers”. In 2013 she was sacked in a reshuffle and was unsuccessful in her bid to become mayor of London in 2015.

Regarded as being on the left of the party, she swung behind Jeremy Corbyn’s successful election as Labour leader, and in 2015 found herself back on the front bench as shadow minister for International Development. In 2016 she became shadow Health Secretary, then shadow Home Secretary.

Her forthright views on a variety of subjects, from Britain’s military interventions and cut backs of public services, plus her support for Corbyn, have led her to come under frequent media attack.

However, she continues to be a popular constituency MP and in the 2017 general election she increased her majority to 35,000 votes.

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