Diane Abbott writes exclusively for The Voice
News came recently that Britain's first black female MP, Diane Abbott, had been sacked from Labour's shadow front bench by leader Ed Miliband. It was speculated that there was tension between the two on various issues and her removal was a result of that tension. Abbott, the former Shadow Minister for Public Health writes exclusively for The Voice to explain in her own words why she is not on the front bench and what lies ahead for her.
Diane Abbott, Voice Contributor
I have stepped down from my role as a front-bench spokesperson on health, with some regret. My mother was one of that generation of West Indian women who came to this country in the 1960s and helped to build the NHS. She would have been thrilled to know that her daughter was a shadow health minister. I also made great friends up and down the country in my public- health role. And the issues were fascinating. Public health includes topics like alcoholism, childhood obesity and mental health.
I also did a lot of work on the sexualisation of women and girls in popular culture, which I intend to continue. But as one door closes another opens. I will definitely have more time for speaking up for the Caribbean and Africa in Parliament.
For many years I have been chair of the All Party Group on the British Caribbean. And this year I set up a new All Party Group on Jamaica.
In recent years, much of my work on these issues has been behind the scenes. Now, I will be able to be much more public. First on my list is a meeting with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation in order to plan the next stage in my campaign against the pernicious Air Passenger Duty. And as one of the longest serving London MPs, I want to be a voice for London speaking out on issues where others fear to tread.
We can all attack Boris Johnson. I daresay even Boris can attack Boris. But London needs a strong voice to speak out on a number of things. One is the pernicious anti-immigrant rhetoric that is so common in the political debate.
constrained from speaking
Because of my front-bench position, I was constrained from speaking out on topics like the ridiculous "immigrants go home" van that was driving around London this summer.
The van was an unpleasant gimmick designed to reassure voters that the Government is "cracking down" on immigrants. Now the gloves are off in terms of what I will have to say about politicians, in any party, who pander to anti-immigrant sentiment.
Someone also needs to speak out on the effects of austerity on London. The biggest employer in London is the public sector. The majority of those workers are women. But no-one is talking about what a body-blow government cuts are to ordinary people in London, including many BME workers.
Housing is another big issue in London. Something has to be done about sky-rocketing rents and the housing bubble. If nothing is done, the children of ordinary Londoners will be priced out of the city. Having stepped down as a front bench spokesperson, it is not my intention to take up knitting. If anything, The Voice readers are going to hear a lot more from me in the coming months.