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I stand with Diane Abbot – Diane Abbott must stand!

By Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0,

The first time I went to the Houses of Parliament, was in 1973, I had come to Britain on my way from a work and training stint in America and my late older brother insisted that I could not go back to Ghana without feeling what democracy was all about,  unfortunately the tour was basic and with a large group and I did not get the opportunity to experience democracy work as I should – I could not ask too many questions and I did not see the inside of the chamber.

Ten years on, late in 1983, after I had settled in Britain to do pioneering work in the area of black business development, I met a lady who I was told was a councillor. I did not know what to make of it since I did not know any black councillors at the time but I was happy that she supported the work that I did.  Then a few years later, we heard that she was standing to become an MP and we all labour-voting people of African heritage supported and contributed to her campaign.

She won her seat and invited some of us to visit and that was the first time I really went into parliament and felt a part of the democracy that my brother had been talking about.  We were in Parliament and someone like us could ask questions about issues that we only discussed around our dinner tables but we unable to bring up into the mainstream.

In time, I joined the Labour Party which became more representative of people like me because we could see them on the front benches knowing that I had people with whom I could raise issues of concern who truly understood race and inequality and inclusiveness and who had a lived experience of the kind of vilification and ‘strangling’ of our voices when we were deemed to have misspoke.

While we have tried to rationalise why the whip has been withdrawn from Diana, a larger number of black people out there whose first choice is to vote for the Labour Party are asking why an MP from an ethnic minority background cannot speak out on race issues.  They feel that the party does not understand them when they act out their frustration about how long it is taking this country to be truly democratic and listen to the voices of black people.

Several black people are wondering why it is so difficult for the leadership to accept the apology from Diana and restore the whip to her.  Is the same fate awaiting other black people who dare to challenge the party’s stand on equality.  Restoring the whip will prove to all the labour-voting black people that she is being fairly treated even if she is ‘too vocal’

Let us be reminded of the old African saying – the child who goes to the stream to fetch water more than the other children is most likely to be the one to break the pot to carry water.  When they do so we do not bar them from going to the stream for too long.

Diana has been an icon for the party more than most give her the recognition for, the party doesn’t have to cut its nose to spite its face. 

The question we are asking is, was the whip restored because the election was called and why the delay in the decision for her to stand?

Time is running out on this unfair treatment. The time to act is now!

Ade Sawyerr, Croydon 31st May 2024

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!


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