Diane Abbott: The MP was denied the opportunity to speak during the House of Commons race debate

  • Written by Sam Francis
  • Political correspondent, BBC News

Video explanation,

Watch: Abbott stood up to try to get the speaker's attention 46 times

Diane Abbott, Speaker of the House of Commons, accused the failure of democracy by not allowing her to speak during a debate that focused on statements about her.

Alleged comments by a Tory donor that Ms Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” dominated half an hour of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

The MP repeatedly tried to ask the Prime Minister a question but it was not chosen.

A spokesman for the Speaker of the House said he had “run out of time” to contact Ms Abbott.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly rejected MPs' calls to repay £10m Tory donations from Frank Hester, who Ms Abbott was said to have made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

The Prime Minister said Mr Hester's alleged comments were “wrong” and “racist” – but the businessman had apologized and his “remorse should be accepted”.

Ms Abbott was on the opposition benches during the weekly session, but did not get a chance despite standing to attract the Speaker's attention at least 46 times.

In a social media post afterwards, Ms Abbott said Sir Lindsay Hoyle had failed the House of Commons and democracy.

She added: “I do not know whose interests the Speaker of the House of Representatives believes he is serving.”

Writing in guardian Later, Ms Abbott said of the Speaker: “He claimed there had not been enough time after reviewing the people on the order paper.

“But I'm not convinced – the fact is that he can call whoever he wants.”

MPs go to the polls to ask a question at PMQs, a highlight of the parliamentary week. But the Speaker also has discretion to select additional MPs, who can stand up – or swing – to indicate that they want to ask the Prime Minister a question.

A spokesman for the Speaker of the House of Representatives said: “During Prime Minister’s Questions, the Speaker must select MPs from both sides of the House on a rotating basis to achieve fairness.

“This is done within a limited time frame, with the Chair giving priority to members already listed on the order paper. This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to contact all members who wanted to ask a question.”

Before the debate, Ms Abbott said Mr Hester's alleged comment that she needed to “shoot her” was “creepy”.

Both Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer and Stephen Flynn, the Scottish National leader of Westminster, raised Mr Hester's alleged comments with the Prime Minister.

Once the discussion was over, Ms Abbott was seen shaking her head after not being called upon to speak.

Labor MP Charlotte Nicholls described the Speaker's decision as “really bad”.

“If Diane wanted to talk, instead of talking about her, she should have had the opportunity to do so,” Nichols said in a social media post.

During the debate, Stella Creasy, another Labor MP, posted on social media that there would be “something very wrong if [Ms Abbott’s] The sound is not heard today.”

A Labor spokesman echoed these comments, saying after the debate that “it was good for the House to be able to hear from” Ms Abbott.

Ms Abbott has worked as an independent since April 2023 when she apologized for a letter she sent to the Observer, in which she wrote that Irish, Jews and Travelers had not experienced racism “in their entire lives”. She withdrew her statements and apologized “for any suffering caused.”

As the PMQ meetings ended, Sir Keir and Flynn approached Ms Abbott at the back of the room, along with a series of Labor MPs.

During the conversation, Ms Abbott reportedly repeatedly asked Sir Keir to take back her party whip. He reportedly replied: “I understand.”

Ms Abbott – who is running as an independent MP after being suspended by Labor – had previously called for “public support from Keir Starmer” following Mr Hester's comments.

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