Labour MP blasts 'coward' Diane Abbott after she missed Article 50 vote through illness

Posted On: 
2nd February 2017

Diane Abbott has been accused by a fellow Labour MP of “bottling” last night’s crunch vote on triggering Article 50. 

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott at Labour conference
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Home Secretary went home ill at 5pm, just two hours before MPs voted on the Government's plans to formally begin the two-year Brexit process.

Jeremy Corbyn had imposed a three-line whip on Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Government’s bill at second reading.  

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A spokeswoman for Ms Abbott told PoliticsHome she would not be returning to work until next week after suffering from a migraine attack.

But Labour MP John Mann said the Shadow Cabinet minister’s actions had been “embarrassing” and called on her to apologise.

He told BBC News: “It’s quite extraordinary. We have some very, very ill people who’ve turned up to Parliament to vote yesterday, who are [so] sick they’ve not been able to carry on their work as MPs. They made it there and they voted, and she gave herself a sick note at 5 o’clock.

“I think we all know what’s going on here. She bottled the vote, it’s cowardice. People who voted in different ways, one can argue whether they’re right, they’re wrong, but you don’t abstain on the big votes. And it’s embarrassing to see that, and I think she ought to be giving an apology to the Labour party for doing so. That is not leadership, that’s cowardice, she’s called it very, very badly.”

CORBYN SHOULD 'SHOW HE MEANS BUSINESS'

Labour MPs Ronnie Campbell and Grahame Morris both voted last night despite recently undergoing treatment for cancer. 

Three members of the Shadow Cabinet – Jo Stevens, Dawn Butler and Rachael Maskell – resigned in order to defy the whip and vote against triggering Article 50.

A further 13 junior frontbenchers were among a total of 47 Labour MPs to oppose the bill.

Mr Corbyn is yet to say what disciplinary action will be taken against the MPs in junior ministerial posts, but Mr Mann said they should be sacked.

“Jeremy Corbyn had called this right; Labour MPs and particularly those who’ve accepted jobs from him, like Diane Abbott and others, if they’re not prepared to vote the way that Jeremy’s told them to vote then they shouldn’t be on the front bench,” he added.

“I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn for enforcing a whip on Labour MPs and now he should take action to show that he means business when he enforces a three-line whip.”

A Labour source told PoliticsHome they hoped Ms Abbott would be able to take part in the final Commons vote on the bill next week.

“Labour MPs are just willing her to get better,” the source said.  

“There's no need for her to do anything taxing like going on Question Time or the Sunday Shows this week.

“We're sure she'll be well enough in time for third reading next Wednesday.”

'BREXIT FLU'

Ms Abbott’s Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, but her office denied missing the vote for political expediency.

She had been present at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, and also took part in a Westminster Hall debate at around 3pm.

On the Today programme this morning, presenter Nick Robinson even asked Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell if Ms Abbott had contracted "Brexit flu".

But a spokeswoman for Ms Abbott today insisted she was ill, and would not be returning to work until next week.

"Diane had a full day planned but at around 5pm she went to Hackney because of migraines," she told PoliticsHome. "We've cancelled her plans for the next two days but expect her to be back in on Monday at the latest."