LONDON — The UK’s main opposition Labour party suspended prominent member Diane Abbott as an MP on Sunday, pending an investigation into comments she made that Jewish people were not subject to racism “all their lives.”
Abbott, the first black woman to become an MP in the UK, said in a letter to the Observer newspaper that Irish, Jewish and Traveller (Roma) people all “experience prejudice” similar to that suffered by “white people with points of difference, such as redheads. But they are not all their lives subject to racism.”
“At the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships,” she added.
Labour immediately announced that Abbott, who was shadow interior minister under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, had been suspended from its parliamentary party.
“The Labour party completely condemns these comments, which are deeply offensive and wrong,” said a spokesman.
“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Diane Abbott pending an investigation.”
Abbott later tweeted that she wanted to “wholly and unreservedly withdraw my remarks,” saying that an initial draft of the letter had been sent in error.
“Racism takes many forms and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects,” she said.
An Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into antisemitism in the Labour party under Corbyn found in 2020 that the party was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.”
Corbyn’s replacement, Keir Starmer, apologized over the issue and confirmed his predecessor would not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.