Thursday 20 May 2010

Orwell, Abbott and abortion rights

So after the Orwell awards last night -I didn't win of course, but there was an AWFUL lot of wine and a fun time was had by all, including sitting next to a Tory MP who told me how awful his constituents were in graphic detail - I arrived home at witching time to turn around some emergency copy on abortion, moral imagery and the shame matrix. I'm pleased with the response to the piece, which went live on CiF just in time for a few rabid forced-birthers to spray bits of bile and sandwich at the internet in their lunchbreaks.

Am consolidating a coherent socialist-feminist paradigm with staunch pro-choice ideology at its heart, about which there will be more waffling on here when I've lined up the theory so it all matches up and there are no little stringy bits to trim off the sides. But in a week which has been about tackling a housing crisis, centering my pro-choice feminism AND despairing over the future of the parliamentary left, I was absolutely bloody overjoyed to see that Diane Abbott will be standing for leadership of the Labour Party.

Diane Abbott is a pro-choice heroine, who attempted to force her party into granting Northern Irish women the right to even a measure of reproductive self-determination in 2008, who opposed Trident replacement, ID cards, Labour's anti-terrorism laws and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is anti-war, pro-woman, pro-equality and a socialist, and she's also very funny on the telly, and the London electorate knows all too well how much that helps. I will be joining the Labour Party in order to vote for Abbott, and I will probably be volunteering for her campaign. You should too. Diane for King.

{ETA January 2011: I didn't join the Labour Party. I couldn't bring myself to. I'll never be a member, not till they change their welfare policy.}


  1. She's certainly one of my favourite Labour MPs. I wish there were far more like her, the late Mo Mowlam or late Gwyneth Dunwoody (a political giant, make no mistake). She's principled, effective, wonderful on the Itchy and Scratchy show and, not to put too fine a point on it, beautiful.

    One thing though. I worked in Islington for the Lib Dems during the campaign, and however much I respect people like her or Jeremy Corbyn, heard that they share a major tendency of being 'celebrity MPs'. Because of their reputations, and because there's no chance of them losing their seats, both arguably focus too much on international affairs when they should really be thinking about their constituents; and anecdotally, I was told that at a campaign hustings, Abbott only turned up with ten minutes left! Which doesn't say a lot for our electoral system.

    These are small criticisms though. What the Lib Dems have done undoubtedly provides a clear opportunity for Labour to move demonstrably leftwards; and while Abbott clearly won't win, if she does well, it could provide the impetus for the next leader to take the party in a very different direction.

  2. Can you honestly see her leading Labour to victory?

  3. I like Diane Abbott, despite her signing that stupid pro-homeopathy early day motion and her total failure to give me a job once.

    I hope she gets the 33 votes because it'll be good for the leadership race. Not because she's a woman and she's black but because the contest should involve debate and for that we need a range of opinions to be aired.

    That said I think she'd be a terrible choice as leader.

  4. Is it not the case that you have to have been a member for 6 continuous months in order to be able to vote?

    I for one am glad I didn't get around to stopping my membership (though not for lack of disgust). I think she may well be the best candidate, I reckon she's got my vote.

  5. Pooh Bear (but not naked)21 May 2010 at 07:16

    Diane Abbott also disapproves of private education and has tried to make moves against it politically, e.g., removing charitable status from public schools etc., ceaselessly throughout her career. Yet when it came to educating her own son what did she do? Sent him to a private fee paying school the cost of which she paid for herself out of her publicly funded MPs salary!

    Dishonourable, hypocritical and laughable.

    As you intimate, Penny, Ms. Abbott has all the qualities necessary to be a perfect Labour leader.

  6. At least you made the short list. I've read Winston Smith, the winner, and I really like his writing because it is 'real'.

  7. Related to your CIF article. I'm not sure it's a simple dichotomy between pro life/ pro choice. I am personally uncomfortable with abortion and would not have one myself. However I do respect the right of other women to make what can't be an easy choice. What is essential is more reasoned and nuanced debate with a good deal more compassion on both sides. It needs to be firmly established when a foetus becomes capable of feeling pain. Any such procedure carried out on a being capable of feeling pain should be undertaken only in extreme circumstances and certainly with pain relief. I am saddened that we cannot have a situation where the normal time limit for abortion is reduced and where procedures are in place for everyone who needs one to have the procedure well before this time limit and for all women to have access to information and advice. There will always be exceptional cases but in an ideal world these would be judged on a case by case basis. Hides behind computer and prepares to be lambasted. Sticking head further over parapet I am a christian but I live in the real world and compassion and seeking to understand is always a better way than judging and condemnation.

  8. "Diane for King"

    That would be a bit of a step down. She is already known in the East End as "The Empress of Hackney"

    captain swing.

  9. Good news that Abbott's entered the race. She has plenty of flaws but she's a clever questioning voice.

    If she gets on the ballot she'll make a potentially tedious race much more interesting.

    This depends on some MPs having enough imagination and bottle to nominate her, which involves thinking beyond their own career prospects.


  10. Interesting how sending a child a certain school is deemed more outrageous than voting for a war...

  11. Aside from the easy target of education, Dianne voted against the military excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan and also is in favour of civil liberties.

    Anecdotally, from her television performances she has a warmth that is missing from the other candidates-hopefully she will gather the required support.

  12. Thank you ,Penny for helping me decide as to whom I will support - Diane Abbot or John McDonnell. After reading you pseudo intellectual and infantile, middle-class tosh in support of Abbot. Sure as fuck it won't be her.

  13. Seconding Leon: all the other candidates for leadership have done far more reprehensible things than take a hypocritical education decision for the benefit of their children.

    That said, even were I a Labour supporter, there's no way I'd consider joining the Labour Party until _after_ they've finished explicitly rejecting New Labour and all it stood for. Which, looking at the other leadership candidates and their odds, seems unlikely to happen.

  14. New Labour Patriarchal Nitwit22 May 2010 at 18:37

    She's up against the rump of "New Lads" from the glory days of Billionaire Blair and Gordon the Great Helmsman.
    And across the commons sit two middle class, middle brow, MiniMe Tonys vying for the votes of a white English electorate.
    Winning is a big ask.

  15. Laurie,

    You will look back at your support for Dianne Abbott and see how how your heart takes priority over your brain.

    The woman is a complete bozo. End of story.

  16. You have to have been a member for six continuous months before the ballot in order to vote in it. The ballot is in September - it's May now.


  17. The education "scandal" really annoys me. As I've seen elsewhere you'd be a really crap parent to sacrifice your child's welfare for your principals. She's a single parent, working a demanding job and she felt that if her son went to a Hackney school he would have suffered in some serious way. So she decided to send him to a fee-paying school and she *herself* called her decision "indefensible" and "incoherent". But she stuck by it.

    So combining that with her stance on the war and her amazing speech about 42 days detention (look it up on youTube if you haven't seen it - it's amazing), she would definitely have my vote if I were Labour.

    In fact if she does become leader, there would be a very good chance that I would start voting Labour.

  18. Scarface:

    Labour are waiving the six-month clause for this election.


  19. John of London24 May 2010 at 14:48

    I don't know whether DA could lead the Labour Party to electoral victory, but I'm sure she could lead to being a party worth electing.
    Another good thing about her, as some Northern git whines about in today's Guardian letters, is that she's a Londoner. WE've had to many governments that act like an occupying enemy.

  20. @Scarface

    Labour have waived the six-month clause for this leadership election.


    That said, individual members collectively only have 1/3 of the voting power, and candidates effectively need pre-approval from the Parliamentary Party even to be entered to general membership vote. Voting for Dianne Abbot will make bugger-all difference, even on the off-chance she actually ends up on the ballot.

  21. Marie Stopes spokeswomen/spokeswomyn are being disengenuous. The ad clearly was their attempt to stake out their territory! "Just giving information"? Just give me a break? "Abortion" is the second item in most copies of the Yellow Pages, and I humbly suggest that anyone who does not have access to the Yellow Pages may well also not have a television either. They did not seem particularly keen to reach women who might have trouble accessing information: no sign interpretation, the only voice-over just mentioned Marie Stopes and abortion but not the phone number, so would not be much help for blind women. And to cap it all, the phone number was a local-rate 0845 one. Now, don't those numbers appear on phone bills?


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