Last night, Diane Abbott appeared — perhaps for the first time — to have something in common with Philip Hammond. Weeks after Theresa May refused to confirm her Chancellor’s job security post-election, Jeremy Corbyn declined to say Comrade Abbott would be Home Secretary in a Labour government. Given that his comments followed Abbott’s disastrous interview on Sky News, and after she cancelled two scheduled media appearances (apparently due to ill health), many took it to be a sign that Abbott’s time as shadow home secretary was running out.
Today Labour have issued a statement announcing that Corbyn has asked Lyn Brown to stand in for Abbott as Shadow Home Secretary for the period of her ill health. Barry Gardiner has since said that Abbott has been diagnosed with a ‘serious, long-term condition’ — urging her critics to show some humanity:
‘I hope people will simply say “OK, fair dos, if that’s the reason she’s been under par, we should back off”.’
For Abbott’s part, at no point has she said she is ill – today she issued a tweet saying she is ‘still standing’:
Touched by all the messages of support. Still standing! Will rejoin the fray soon. Vote Labour!
— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) June 7, 2017
Meanwhile, the BBC’s Iain Watson reports that ‘friends’ of Diane Abbott say she was moved ‘without consultation’:
Friends of Diane Abbott (not a euphemism for DA herself) say she was moved without consultation -not at her request
— iain watson (@iainjwatson) June 7, 2017
Now it’s unprecedented to move a member of the shadow cabinet in this manner so close to an election – and it seems very odd to move someone on the grounds of ill health when they themselves have not said that they’re unwell. The whole way Labour have managed this since Abbott pulled out of he pre-scheduled Woman’s Hour appearance gives the impression they are trying to hide the truth.
For these reasons, Labour’s behaviour at the very least arouses suspicion that they are choosing to hide Abbott away in the closing days of the campaign. If so, this raises questions about Corbyn’s judgment. Firstly, why was he nominating – at a time when the terror threat to the UK is so high – someone who he didn’t trust to do the media rounds on security. Secondly, if she was moved without consultation, it’s a pretty shoddy way to treat a colleague – let alone a friend.