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‘Others have had it restored after worse things’: Forde report author says, as calls grow to return whip to Diane Abbott

17 March 2024, 15:22 | Updated: 17 March 2024, 15:31

Watch again: Sangita Myska speaks to Martin Forde KC

By Jenny Medlicott

The author of the Labour Party’s Forde report has said he is 'at a loss’ as to why Diane Abbott has not had the Labour whip restored.

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Ms Abbott had the Labour whip removed almost a year ago in an anti-Semitism row after she suggested Jewish people did not face lifelong racism.

But now Labour has faced calls to return the whip to the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington after Tory donor Frank Hester made alleged ‘racist’ comments about Ms Abbott.

Frank Hester, a donor who has given £10m to the party, is claimed to have said that Ms Abbott made him "want to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot".

Martin Forde KC was commissioned to carry out the Fore report in 2020, a report into allegations of bullying, racism and misogyny within the Labour Party, which was published in 2022.

Speaking to LBC’s Sangita Myska, Mr Forde said that the report resulted in “a disturbing amount of complaints about racism, other than anti-Semitism, within the party and misogyny.”

He continued: “What we found in essence was a disciplinary system that just wasn’t fit for purpose.

Read more: 'It's been a difficult week': Diane Abbott thanks marchers who joined allies at anti-hate protest after Tory donor row

Read more: Tory donor who said Diane Abbott 'should be shot' gives 'further £5m' to party after he is reported to police

Members of the public rallied in support of Diane Abbot on Saturday.
Members of the public rallied in support of Diane Abbot on Saturday. Picture: Getty

“Huge backlogs, seem to be more fast-tracking of complaints in relation to anti-Semitism and misogyny than anti-black or anti-muslim, racism, or other protected characteristics.”

Reacting to calls to restore the whip to Ms Abbott, Mr Forde said: “If all there is, and I emphasise this, is what she said, which the party were unhappy with 11 months ago, if that’s all there is, then I am at a loss to understand why it’s taken as long as it has.

“If she offered a swift apology, why does that differ from apologies that have been offered by others, including members of and well politicians within the Labour party who had the whip restored, many would argue for saying or stating far worse things than Diane Abbott.

“It’s the lack of consistency that is troubling.”

Despite mounting calls to restore the whip to Ms Abbott, earlier this week Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer refused to say whether he would let Ms Abbott back in the party.

He acknowledged that she had faced a lot of abuse, but also insisted that the issue could not be conflated with the ongoing investigation into her comments almost a year ago.

Sir Keir Starmer refused to say whether he would restore the whip to Ms Abbott.
Sir Keir Starmer refused to say whether he would restore the whip to Ms Abbott. Picture: Alamy

Sir Keir told LBC: “The abuse against Diane Abbott that’s gone on for many, many years is abhorrent and Diane has suffered more abuse than any other MP – usually racist and misogynistic – but all sorts of abuse," Sir Keir said.

"She’s been a trailblazer as a black MP, paving the way for other people, and all that is to be applauded.

"There’s the separate question of what she said and the investigation into that which needs to be resolved - I don't think you can just conflate the two."

It comes after members of the public rallied in support of Ms Abbott at an anti-hate protest on Saturday.

Crowds gathered outside the Home Office to protest against the rise of racism and hatred and to support the independent MP.

Ms Abbott thanked protestors after the march, saying they were there to "unite against all forms of racism.

"It's been a difficult week. It's not easy hearing about the things that have been said about me.

"But as many black people can testify, it's not just the racist incident that's hard to endure, it's the institutional, systemic and structural racism that follows it.

"This isn't about me. This is about the level of racism that exists today."

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