This week Keir Starmer's formed his new Shadow Cabinet replacing several Corbynista stalwarts with his own favoured MPs on the frontbenches. As a result the Labour party has lost some of the ‘titans’ and ‘heavyweights’ of the Corbyn-era, who are no longer shadowing the great offices of state.
To commemorate their departure, Mr Steerpike is compiling the best moments of their careers in opposition. On Monday, Mr S highlighted Richard Burgon’s greatest hits, after he was booted out as Shadow Justice Minister. Today we look at Diane Abbott, who announced in advance of Starmer's election that she would be stepping down from the role. Her successor is Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.
Here are Abbott’s most memorable moments as Shadow Home Sec:
1. Police costs
Diane Abbott’s interview on LBC, where she couldn’t name the cost of Labour’s plan to introduce 10,000 extra police officers, became a defining moment of the 2017 general election campaign. Abbott initially suggested the policy would cost £300,000 (which would have worked out at £30 an officer) before hastily suggesting it would cost £80m instead, when challenged by Nick Ferrari. The gaffe did not exactly help Labour’s attempt to convince voters they were competent enough to lead the country.
2. Labour antisemitism
Abbott also struggled at times when it came to defending her party's record on antisemitism. Memorably, in November last year, when asked if the party had done enough to counter antisemitism within its ranks, Abbott replied that all was fine, because 'the Hasidic community in Stamford Hill doesn’t say that...' Which didn't exactly inspire confidence in Labour's response to complaints...
3. Terrible interviews
Abbott’s grasp of detail may not be missed, now that she’s retiring to the backbenches. In 2017 the opposition MP came under fire after she was interviewed on Sky News about a 2016 report into London’s response to terror attacks. After initially saying that she felt it needed to be revisited, the Shadow Home Secretary unfortunately wasn’t able to name a single one of its recommendations. The interview ended up being yet another open goal for the Tories.
— Sky News Tonight (@SkyNewsTonight) June 5, 2017
4. Controls on immigration
In 2018, in light of the Windrush scandal, Abbott was asked to simply explain what Labour’s immigration policy was on Good Morning Britain. A question, it appeared, that was almost impossible to answer:
5. BBC bias
Even genuine concerns from Labour members appeared at times to be a wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing. Asked by Emily Maitlis in 2018 if Labour’s immigration policy meant that it would end up being characterised as a party for the metropolitan, liberal elite that doomed its MPs in the North (a perfectly valid suggestion, as it turned out), Abbott accused the BBC presenter of ‘reading from a Tory script’. Rather awkwardly, Maitlis explained that the question had come from a Labour member at party conference.
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) September 25, 2018
“You seem to be reading from a Tory script.”Diane Abbott hits back at Emily Maitlis who then points out that her question had come from a Labour member who was in the hall@maitlis | @HackneyAbbott | #newsnight pic.twitter.com/lWo7GBzITL