Women in Politics: Diane Abbott – Shadow Home Secretary

By Sebastian Sanchez-Schilling

Next year Diane Abbott will be celebrating her 30th year in Parliament – a pioneering career which has seen her be the first black woman MP and most recently become the Shadow Home Secretary.

Born to Jamaican parents in 1953, Abbott attended a local grammar school in London. She then went onto read history at Newnham College, Cambridge. This transformative experience is one she merits as the “making” of her.

After stints in journalism and working for the National Council for Civil Liberties, Abbott first entered politics in 1982 when she was elected to the Westminster County Council. In 1987 she successfully contested Hackney North & Stoke Newington, making history as the first black woman MP.

Abbott quickly distinguished herself as maverick within Parliament. Abbott came into Parliament at time when socialism within Labour and the wider UK political climate was actively marginalised. However, the lack of career advancement under Kinnock’s leadership did not stop her from being vocal of her political orientation. This led to her featuring on Conservative attack posters alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

Abbott staunchly opposed ID cards when they were proposed and her speech against the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 during the parliamentary debate earned her The Spectator’s “Parliamentary Speech of the Year” award and adulation at the 2008 Human Rights awards.

Her support for civil liberties and human rights is often intertwined with her anti-war efforts. She was heavily involved in the Stop the War Coalition and opposing the Iraq War – voting against it. Most recently she has played a significant role in highlighting the current Government’s role in atrocities in Yemen. Abbott has repeatedly called on the government to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia – with over £6bn sold in the last year – and stop facilitating the human rights abuses being committed.

Abbott was appointed to the shadow bench by Ed Miliband in 2010 to the role of Shadow Minister for Public Health. Her success in that role led to the Telegraph claiming she was “one of Labour’s best front bench performers”.

Entering its 30th year, Abbott’s career has not yet peaked and seems to be becoming only more distinguished.


Image by Gary Knight via flickr.

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