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Local Figures Line Up To Succeed Diane Abbott As Labour Candidate

Diane Abbott (Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

4 min read

Keir Starmer has declared that no decision has been made to bar Diane Abbott from being a Labour candidate at the 4 July general election. However, PoliticsHome understands that there are several local figures in the mix to succeed her as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

In April 2023, Abbott had the Labour whip withdrawn after she wrote that Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers do not experience racism "all their lives" in the same way Black people do. She subsequently withdrew her comments and apologised.

It was confirmed yesterday that the whip had been restored to Abbott.

However, the party leadership has been accused of trying to prevent the veteran MP from seeking re-election in her London seat.

On Tuesday, The Times reported that Abbott would not be allowed to stand for Labour at the upcoming election.

“No decision has been taken on barring her. Ultimately it’s a decision for the national executive committee,” Starmer said today during a campaign visit to the West Midlands. “They’ll come to that decision in due course. But they haven’t taken that decision.”

While Abbott is now a Labour MP, the matter of whether she stands as a candidate for Labour at the general election is separate. Labour’s ruling NEC – on which Starmer supporters have a clear majority – always has final say over which candidates are approved for selection.

PoliticsHome understands from sources close both to the leadership and to Abbott that the MP was intending to announce her retirement following the whip restoration. Abbott herself has not commented on whether she wants to be a candidate, though it is understood she would like the choice.

Meanwhile, Labour figures from the local area in Hackney have been tipped to replace her as the candidate. The NEC will meet on Tuesday to endorse candidates, but this internal deadline could be passed if the row drags on. Ultimately, Labour sources have pointed out, the legal deadline is Friday, 7 June.

Abbott won with a majority of nearly 60 per cent at the last general election in 2019 — making it one of the biggest majorities in the country. 

Anntoinette Bramble, a Hackney councillor and the borough’s deputy mayor as well as the Local Government Association Labour group's chair, is seen as a frontrunner who has been targeting the seat for some time. 

Sem Moema, a Hackney councillor recently re-elected as the London Assembly member for North East, is considered well-placed to become the candidate. 

She recently put herself forward for Islington North, where former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is standing as an independent, and was shortlisted before ultimately losing out to Praful Nargund

“She was willing to go for Islington North, and that could be rewarded,” a Labour source said. “She wasn’t scared to stick her neck out.”

Mete Coban is also being talked about as a potential successor to Abbott. The Hackney councillor is founder and chief executive of My Life My Say, a youth-led, non-partisan charity. He worked on Sadiq Khan’s mayoral selection campaign in London and received an MBE for services to young people in 2020.

“Mete is impressive, shiny and go-getting. He’s slick,” a Labour source said. He was the youngest ever elected councillor in Hackney aged 21.

Considered less likely to succeed but still in the mix is Coban’s Stoke Newington ward council colleague Susan Fajana-Thomas, who has also been given an honour: an OBE for services to local government and gender equality, awarded last year.

Bramble, Coban and Fajana-Thomas are all cabinet members at Hackney council, while Moema is a deputy cabinet member.

Luke Akehurst, a highly influential NEC member and the secretary of ‘old right’ group Labour First who lived in Hackney for many years, was considered a possibility but PoliticsHome understands that he is not looking to contest the Hackney North seat.

It is thought likely the candidate will be from one of the ethnic minority groups well-represented in the constituency, particularly as they will be replacing Abbott, who entered Parliament in 1987 as the first Black woman to become an MP.

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