This is not a recipe. I wrote this as a series of tweets today and readers asked for it as a blog post, so here it is. Our politics may differ, so feel free to skip straight back to the recipes if that’s what you’re here for.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT DIANE ABBOTT.
Right one of us political writer people needs to do this and it looks like it’s me. Grab a seat. I wanna talk about Diane.
Diane was first elected as an MP in 1987, the year before I was born. She has been dedicated to serving the British public for longer than I have even been alive. Hold that thought. Understand it.
Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have in politics these days? None, really.
Diane went to Cambridge University to study history. IN THE SEVENTIES. In 2017 only 15 black kids went to Cambridge.
Diane worked for the Home Office in 1976. She was so smart they put her on a course to fast-track her career.
Diane was Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties from 1978 to 1980.
Diane was a TV researcher and reporter from 1978 to 1985. I know a lot of those. They’re fast thinkers, avid fact hounds, brilliant minds.
Diane’s political career began in 1982, on Westminster City Council. Then in 1987, I’ll say it again, she became the first black female MP.
In 2008, her speech on civil liberties in the counterterrorism debate won Parliamentary Speech Of The Year in the Spectator awards.
That speech is here. Watch it, and then come back. https://t.co/qNMvtilMa1
She founded the Black Child initiative, to raise educational achievements among black kids. She shared her platform.
She’s been the Shadow Minister for Public health, working tirelessly to tackle Tory cuts to children’s services, maternity care, all of it.
In September 2011, the Telegraph called her ‘one of Labours best frontbench performers’. The same Telegraph now monsters her for clicks.
Diane was one of 16 MPs to write to Miliband in 2015 asking him to commit to opposing further austerity measures. She did that for all of us. Diane was one of a tiny handful of MPs to defy the Labour whip and vote AGAINST Tory austerity cuts. Those cuts are KILLING people.
Diane has consistently voted against a reduction in spending on benefits. She has consistently voted for and campaigned for higher benefits over longer periods for people unable to work due to illness/disability.
In March she raised the issue of cuts to domestic violence services, in the House of Commons: “women and children are turned away daily”.
Diane has campaigned to help unaccompanied migrant children travelling from Greece and Italy.
Diane is a skilled orator, a quick thinker, a glorious debater, a genuine public servant and a thoroughly decent woman.
These are some of the highlights I have found in Hansard, the official record of the Houses of Parliament:
On 31st Jan 2017 – Diane was demanding to know why ESOL funding was being cut while the immigration debate focused on the importance of integration…
She has spoken on Leveson, terrorism, education, poverty, welfare, illness, disability, refugees, child sexual abuse, pro-choice abortion. Her campaigns include legal aid, civil liberties, fighting crime, sickle cell thallasemia, public transport, improving education. She has given speeches at Harvard University, for goodness sake. Have you? She has travelled to Kenya, China, Uganda, all over the world, representing the Government. Representing Britain. HAVE YOU?
And how, how has this brilliant, bright, dedicated, little black girl been thanked for 30 years of daily service to our country?
Like this. This is how you repay her. She gets this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. FOR. THIRTY. YEARS.
Now most of us cannot imagine what that level of abuse must be like as a one-off, let alone every single day. Let me help you with that.
I’ve been in the public eye for the last 5 years. I get abuse every single day too, but I’d imagine it’s not a tenth of what Diane gets. But let me tell you about it, and you can multiply it by ten to get some idea. Not much of an idea, as it’s not happening to you, but try.
Online abuse has made me suicidal more than once. I have taken the pills. I have stood on the train bridge. I have been driven insane. I have had periods where I have been unable to work because I am such a wreck from sustained hatred and vitriol. I have lost work. I have been literally driven insane by hatred from strangers. It interrupts, it diverts, it permeates, it seeps in, you bullying horrors. It’s there when you’re reading bedtime stories to your kids. It strangles you in your sleep. It follows you in your hand, in your head. It slowly destroys you from the inside, a rot starts to set in. You become scared to say anything, scared to be anyone. You hide. You cry.
Imagine 30 years of getting up every day and putting your suit on and going back to work to make life better for your abusers despite them.
Imagine being tough enough to withstand people hurling metaphorical rocks at you every day and to still work to improve their lives.
Imagine the dedication required to give 30 years in service to people who regularly tell you to die.
Diane Abbott is tougher than any one of you sitting here making your lame memes from behind anonymous screens. She is a titan. A pioneer.
Diane Abbott is here for women, children, food bank users, nurses, students, mothers, disabled people, refugees, every single one of us.
Diane is one of the very best members of Parliament you could EVER hope to have to stand up for you, and you have her, & you better hold her. Because if the Tories get back in tomorrow my god we are going to need Diane more than ever to stand up to their callous, brutal austerity.
If we have five more years of cuts and cruelty, we need five more years of one of its strongest opponents to face it down. We need Diane.
And so tomorrow, Stoke Newington & Hackney, go out and vote for the Diane Abbott who has worked for you for 30 years. Without hesitation.
And as someone who has also done a lot of telly, we all muck up on breakfast sofas. It’s a horrible situation but unless you’ve been there, unless you’ve tried to answer three different questions in 15 seconds to 2 million people with 6 cameras in your face before a cup of tea, you can sit down, shut up, and stop criticising people whose jobs and lives you really know bugger all about.
I’ll end this by saying – this took a few minutes of research through news archives, Wikipedia, Hansard and TheyWorkForYou. Not tabloids. Her achievements and voting record are extremely simple to find. They’re handily above. Maybe read those, not the front pages of the Mail.
I conclude by wishing Diane some well-earned rest, and all the success tomorrow. Thankyou for all you do, for all of us, every single day.
With love, as a mother, a disabled person, a former food bank user,
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