Angela Rayner: 'Iconic' Diane Abbott should not be stopped from standing

The deputy Labour leader tells Anushka Asthana in an exclusive interview that briefings to journalists suggesting Diane Abbott was barred as a Labour candidate are 'disgraceful'

Angela Rayner has told ITV News that she can see no reason why Diane Abbott should not be able to stand as a Labour MP - describing the veteran Labour politician as "iconic" and a "trailblazer".

In her first television interview since Greater Manchester Police, Stockport Council and HMRC all dropped investigations against her, Labour's deputy leader also accused the Conservatives of manufacturing a "smear campaign" that had "diverted" police resources.

"Diane Abbott has given 37 years of service to the Labour party and also to the country. She is the first female black MP to come into parliament and she has been a trailblazer. To me she has been iconic in order to give people from her background that you can achieve great things as well," Rayner said.

She hit out at "disgraceful" briefings to journalists that suggested Labour would bar Abbott from standing before the process had even finished.

"I am not happy that people brief out negatively about our colleagues. I don't think that is how we should conduct ourselves."

Watch the full interview:

She added: "I don't see any reason why Diane Abbott can't stand as a Labour MP going forward. She has been cleared as part of an investigation.

"I am not involved in that process - and for me, I just say that if she wants to stand, I don't see any reason why she can't stand."

Asked if she would say that to Labour leader - Keir Starmer - she added - "I am saying that as deputy leader of the Labour party."

Starmer was also asked about Abbott and also described her as a trailblazer who overcame incredible challenges - even while facing abuse. But he said no decision had been taken and he had the aspiration for the best candidates.

On facing a police investigation after the vice chair of the Tory party - James Daly - wrote to Greater Manchester Police about her previous housing arrangements, she said: "It was really difficult for my family. I went into politics, I’m a public figure and I understand that...

"My family have supported me but they got the flak too, and my friends."

'I'm frustrated because it distracts [police] resources and that wasn't necessary'

She said she didn't publish information to shut it down to protect "people that are not in the public eye" but insisted she complied and added: "I'm frustrated because it distracts [police] resources and that wasn't necessary."

Asked about her politics - she said "I am a socialist" which she described as believing in the "collective good of what we can achieve together".

Asked about why Rachel Reeves the shadow chancellor did not use that word to describe herself - Rayner added: "Well, Rachel is a socialist, but she describes herself I think as a social Democrat... but if you asked her what that meant, I'm pretty certain she would say exactly what I've just said to you."

Pressed on Labour's failure to promise to remove a two child benefit gap that former leader Gordon Brown warned had driven children into poverty, Rayner promised that she would be "laser focused" on driving down poverty if elected.

When we pointed out that even Suella Braverman, on the right of the Tory party, wanted that policy scrapped, she said: "We will not just use words, we will take action to end child poverty, but we will not put unfunded spending commitments."

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