The question I had hoped to pose this week was this: ‘Do people dislike Diane Abbott because she is black and a woman, or because she is useless?’ But then I worried that we would come to a fairly definitive conclusion a long time before my allotted 1,000 words had been used up. ‘The latter, I think,’ is the response I have heard time and time again both from Labour supporters and Tories.
For the entire day before Ms Abbott’s appearance on Question Time, in which she thinks she was treated badly on account of the colour of her skin and her gender, my wife had been bouncing around the house in a state of enormous excitement, looking forward to the car crash which would inevitably occur that evening on the TV. It always does with Diane. I have never heard Kemi Badenoch, the excellent Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, complain that she was victimised for her race and gender by the BBC, for example. Nor Priti Patel. Not all of our judgments devolve from hard-wired prejudice: just occasionally we reach conclusions based on the pristine examination of the evidence before us.
On one point, though, Abbott was right to complain — and it should serve as a warning to the rest of us. Labour is not six points behind in the polls. It is level-pegging — and if there were an election tomorrow I suspect it would win handsomely. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the right. And so it might well be that one day soon we wake up to a government led by people who despise everything about this country’s history and revere, instead, fascistic foreign maniacs such as Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, Hamas and even Kim Jong-un.