Diane Abbott demands Starmer restore Jeremy Corbyn whip to ‘unify’ Labour Party

Diane Abbott: It’s fairly apparent Starmer had other motives

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Former shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott conceded the policies the Labour Party has been running on in recent months “haven’t worked” in winning the party support in key areas. She insisted Sir Keir Starmer will need to focus his efforts on “unifying” Labour and suggested a first step forward would be restoring Jeremy Corbyn’s whip. The former Labour leader had his whip suspended in 2020 amid claims he had undermined the party’s work in rebuilding trust with Jewish voters amid allegations of anti-Semitism.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5’s Your Call, Ms Abbott said: “First of all, we’ve got to unify the party.

“This idea that it’s helpful to have some sort of wall with your own party members, that’s not working for us. 

“I think we should restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn. I think that would be a unifying measure.

“But we’ve also got to build on the 2017 manifesto and put together the policies that will appeal to the people in Hartlepool and in Hackney.”

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Asked about Labour’s performance in Hartlepool, the former frontbencher said: “It would appear that the strategy that we’ve been pursuing, which is a move to the right, hasn’t worked.

“We know that in the 2017 election under Jeremy’s leadership, we had actually one of our best results in Hartlepool.

“And even in 2019, we held onto Hartlepool so it’s not to do with Jeremy Corbyn, it’s not even to do with the policies that we fought on in 2017 and 2019.

“We have to look at the strategy we’re currently pursuing.”

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Labour MP Steve Reed, a member of Sir Keir’s top team, told the BBC: “There’s no hiding from the fact this is a shattering result for Labour, absolutely shattering.

“It tells us that the pace of change in the Labour Party has not been fast enough. We need to quicken it up.”

Hartlepool had been a Labour hold for nearly 47 years but Conservatives on Thursday secured a nearly 7,000-majority in the constituency.

Result in Hartlepool continue a trend Boris Johnson set in the 2019 parliamentary election when he struck directly at Labour’s heartlands to win a commanding majority in parliament on a simple message to “get Brexit done”.

Labour had tried to manage expectations over the vote, saying that Thursday’s elections would always be difficult at a time of the coronavirus pandemic.

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