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Has Starmer told the truth about Diane Abbott?

Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Sir Keir Starmer has made personal integrity front and centre of his election campaign. When asked about his multiple broken pledges two days ago, the Labour leader declared that ‘I think it’s more important to stand in front of the electorate and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t now afford what I said before”… I’m not going to tell you you can have everything and then break a promise’… I think that is basic honesty with the electorate.’ But has Starmer given that ‘basic honesty’ when it comes to the matter of one of his own party’s MPs?

On Friday, Sir Keir was asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari about his party’s ongoing investigation into Diane Abbott, following her suspension in April 2023 over her letter to the Observer. Ferrari said:

NF: ‘Some Labour supporters have been speaking to me. They’re puzzled about the direction of the party. There seems to be room for Natalie Elphicke down in Dover, but not Diane Abbott up here in London. Can you welcome Diane Abbott back to your happy fold?’

KS: Well, look, Diane is, going through a process, Nick, because, you know, in relation to the, investigation of an issue relating to her that’s not finally resolved, yet, but, you know, this Labour Party is a changed Labour party.

However, it has since been confirmed that the Labour investigation into Diane Abbott actually concluded five months ago. The BBC reported that Abbott was given a formal warning back in December 2023 but was not told that the outcome meant she would be barred as an election candidate. In the meantime, Starmer and his Labour colleagues continued to insist that the investigation was ongoing – despite it having been wrapped up months ago.

In the words of Richard Holden, the Tory party chairman: ‘It’s inconceivable that Starmer wasn’t told the process had finished and a warning issued.’ Did Keir know and try to mislead the public? Or did he not know and allow himself to be kept in the dark? At best it was ignorant; at worst duplicitous. One thing’s for sure: it’s hardly forensic.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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