Private education, police officers and her 'splendid afro' - Diane Abbott's best (or worst) gaffes

Private education, police officers and her 'splendid afro' - Diane Abbott's top six gaffes

What has the shadow home secretary done over the years?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The flak is flying around Labour this morning, and once again Diane Abbott is right in the middle of it.

The shadow home secretary took part in an interview on Sky News Tonight with Dermot Murnaghan, where it appeared she didn't know the detail of a key report on protecting London from terrorism. 

Abbott has faced a firestorm of criticism following the interview, and she has cancelled a follow up debate with Amber Rudd on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour, citing illness. 

Sadly for her and for Labour voters, it's nothing new. In fact Abbott's political career has been pockmarked by a steady stream of gaffes, the Hackney MP embarrassing herself as often as she embarrasses the Tories with her comments.

It's fairly tricky to do a 'best of' compilation of Abbott's faux pas, but somehow we've whittled the list down to six. Check them out below:

1. When she criticised Harriet Harman for educating her children privately, only for it to emerge she had sent her son to a private school

In 1997 Abbott criticised her Labour colleague for deciding to educate her son privately. She said the decision made the party look as though it says one thing, then chooses to do something else, given its oft-repeated criticism of private education.

Then, in 2003, it emerged Abbott had sent her own son to a private school. Abbott later said the decision was “indefensible”, but said she had feared for her child falling into a gang if he went to state school. A concern which presumably doesn't apply to any other parents. 

2. When she commented on the lengths West Indian Mums will go to for their children

During the 2010 Labour leadership campaign, Abbott caused controversy by saying “West Indian mums go to the wall for their children.” This was said partly to explain that decision to send her son to a fee-paying school.

Quickly, the BBC's Andrew Neil asked her if black mums love their children more than their white counterparts, and called it a racist remark.

3. When she allegedly criticised nurses at her local hospital

The shadow home secretary reportedly said “blonde, blue-eyed Finnish girls” were not suitable to be working as nurses because they had “never met” a person who was black.

4. The interview where she didn’t appear to know how much new police officers cost

To announce the Labour Party’s flagship policy on police and crime earlier this year, the shadow home secretary appeared on a radio station to discuss the party’s plans.

In the interview it became apparent Abbott didn’t appear to know exactly how much the policy would cost, giving answers which ranged from £300,000 to £80 million.

5. When she tried to distance herself from claims of supporting the IRA by talking about her hair

In a recent appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP was asked questions relating to claims she had supported the IRA.

The shadow home secretary dismissed the claims by saying it was “34 years ago”, and how she had “a rather splendid afro at the time.”

She then went on to say she didn’t “have the same hairstyle” these days and didn’t have “the same views.”

6. When she didn’t appear to know the contents of the Lord Harris terror report

On Monday evening [June 5], the shadow home secretary appeared on Sky News Tonight with Dermot Murnaghan.

In this interview, she was asked about the detail contained in a report by Lord Harris on how to protect London from terrorism.

It seemed as though Abbott didn’t know the contents of the report, reverting to the same stock answer about “preparedness and resilience" - even when pressed on it by the presenter.