How Labour figures tried to broker a deal with Diane Abbott that could now be in tatters

There has been intense lobbying from some parts of the Labour party, that Abbott be treated with respect. Credit: PA

The negotiations over Diane Abbott's future have been strained, and somewhat complicated for months.

There was no question that what she sent to the Observer was seen as totally unacceptable on all sides.

Her comment was that Irish, Jewish and Traveller people "undoubtedly experience prejudice" which is "similar to racism". Then, she added: "It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice.

"But they are not all their lives subject to racism."

The comments rightly drew outrage, and she was subject to an NEC inquiry. But why, when it finished months ago, did the Labour Party drag its feet for months?

Having spoken to people close to this on all sides, here is my understanding of what is going on.

When the National Executive Committee (NEC) report concluded it essentially allowed for Abbot to get the whip back if she carried out an online course on antisemitism, which she did. She had immediately apologised for the original post and withdrawn it.

There seems to have been something else asked for - perhaps a more fulsome apology - but nothing that was going to block the whip being returned.

There has also been intense lobbying from some parts of the Labour Party, including many great women from all wings, that Abbott be treated with respect, have the whip returned and dealt with kindly.

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As the first and longest serving female black MP, she is seen as an absolute trailblazer, with as one Labour woman put to me a "ceiling crashing contribution", that deserves recognition and dignity.

The issue was that lots of people, some very hostile to Abbott, others very warm towards her, did not want her to stand again as the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

On Wednesday, Abbott told a reporter that she is "banned" from standing as a Labour MP at the General Election, but ITV News understands that this has not been communicated by Starmer's direct team, and that any final decision will be made on Tuesday June 4 when the NEC is due to finalise candidate endorsements.

I don't doubt that for some in the party, including probably those who briefed The Times that she would be blocked from standing, that this was about stopping a high-profile candidate on the left of the party from standing again.

But there are others who think Abbott should move on for other reasons. There have certainly been, over the years, some concerns about health issues.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer condemned Diane Abbott's remarks about racism as 'antisemitic'. Credit: PA

And there are said to be great candidates keen to stand in this sought after safe Hackney seat.

Most of those I speak to in the party wanted a deal to be struck (perhaps even with Abbott moving to the Lords) and for her to come out with that decision.

The briefing to The Times (which led to a beyond furious reaction on both sides) had simply poured fuel onto this situation, however. Any deal seems to have shattered, and it could all leave Keir Starmer in a very difficult situation.

Some in his party might relish this fight with such a high profile figure of the left. But many of those who have been loyal to the leader will be furious.

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