Isabel Oakeshott

The row over “racist” abuse of Diane Abbott shows how far Momentum will sink

Let me start by confessing that Diane Abbott made my heart sink long before she opened her mouth on BBC Question Time last week – and she has made it plumb the depths since.

The confected row over the shadow home secretary’s “treatment” on the show showcases all that is rotten about the current Labour leadership, and the warped priorities of deeply unpleasant Momentum activists behind it.

Neither Abbott nor I were thrilled to find ourselves sitting in close proximity on the train north for the recording of the show: nothing personal on my part, but less than ideal for rehearsing lines or taking sensitive telephone calls.

I briefly considered moving to another seat but didn’t want to be rude. There’s an unwritten rule on Question Time that however great their political differences, panellists are nice to each other off-air. After all, we’re all in it together in that bear pit. So I stayed put and went out of my way to be friendly.

By contrast, the shadow home secretary could not be bothered with the most basic civilities. In 15 years at Westminster I’ve rarely seen such bad manners – but that is by the by. Politicians are entitled to be rude, and express their distaste at sitting near me.

It is the faux allegations of racism and sexism towards Abbott on the show that really depress me – and tell us so much about the poisonous culture in sections of the Labour party.

At the heart of the controversy is a bizarre claim that during rehearsals with the audience, presenter Fiona Bruce made an off-the-cuff remark about Abbott’s fling with Jeremy Corbyn decades ago.

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Written by
Isabel Oakeshott
Isabel Oakeshott is a former Political Editor of the Sunday Times and is now International Editor of Talk TV

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