Diane Abbott has entered the Labour leadership contest becoming the first woman to throw her hat into the political ring and aiming to become the first female Labour party leader as well as the first black person to lead a political party in Britain.
Ms Abbott announced that she would be running for leadership after encouragement from party members and said that she was confident of securing the 33 nominations needed to get her on the ballot paper.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Ms Abbott spoke about the fact that not one female was contesting the leadership and thought that the Labour party could not move forward with a leadership contest without a female contender.
Abbott, 56, became the first black female MP to be elected to The House of Commons when she was elected MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987.
She is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, a left-wing group which rejects the ideas of New Labour and in 2008 she was named one of the ten most powerful black women in Britain in the Guardian.
Abbott has a considerable history of standing up for race issues. For her first parliamentary speech she spoke about the racism which she saw in British immigration policy and when she spoke at a black studies conference in Philadelphia she sparked controversy when she described Britain as one of the most racist nations on earth in 1989 and was quoted in The Times as saying “The British invented racism.”
Abbott is also a vociferous campaigner on issues regarding education and black children, organising the annual London Schools and the Black Child conference and the London Schools and the Black Child Annual Awards.
Whether Abbott’s outspoken views on race will prove to be too much of a political liability remains to be seen, all that can be said at this time is that her entry has made the Labour leadership contest interesting for black and minority ethnic communities and for women.
Is it likely that Labour MPs will elect a black woman as leader? We shall see.
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