Diane Abbott has had a rough week or so.
First, she was mocked for missing the least important of the Brexit votes, the ‘first reading’ where nothing much was going to happen, via a ridiculous social media hashtag. Gaurang Morjaria on Twitter nailed it pefectly:
Then she was called an ape by a pig of a Tory councillor, who – we’re glad to note – was suspended for his swineishness.
Then, after Wednesday’s final Commons vote on the government’s Article 50 bill, leering Brexit Secretary David Davis decided it would be a jolly jape to plant an unwelcome kiss on Ms Abbott in mocking thanks for her vote in favour of the bill. Ms Abbott told him to “f*ck off”. Personally, I think a knee in the family jewels would have made it even better, but of course all the media attention has been on the epithet rather than the sexual harrassment.
There have been many messages of support from social media users, and of condemnation of the Tories involved, along with a very good New Statesman article by Stephen Bush.
What there has not been, as far as this author can tell, is any support or outrage in some quarters of the Labour Party from which it should most be expected.
Former interim Labour leader Harriet Harman has spent a lot of time on our TV screens over the past week, promoting her new book A Woman’s Work – including telling us what a great Labour leader she’d have made.
The first ever minister for women and a former Secretary of State for women and equality, Ms Harman is considered a prominent campaigner on behalf of women’s rights and equality, so of course she would be quick to jump into the fray on Ms Abbott’s behalf, right?
Wrong. Ms Harman’s Twitter feed is active, for that of a busy politician. She found plenty of time for tweets to promote her new book. She found time to tweet in praise of Jess Phillips, a Labour MP and Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, who infamously bragged about telling Ms Abbott to ‘f*ck off’ and laughed as Abbott was mocked by a TV impressionist:
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) February 8, 2017
She even found time for a number of tweets about her cats:
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) February 10, 2017
But a message of support and solidarity with a mistreated female colleague, or to condemn the racism of Councillor Pearmain or the misogyny of David Davis?
Let alone a mention in one of her many, self-promoting media appearances. Odd, for someone who thinks she’d have made a great leader.
Ms Harman is not alone in this curious silence. Read the Twitter feeds of any of the women MPs who were lightning quick to sound off in support of Angela Eagle when she supposedly suffered abuse (which was later shown to have been confected) and you’ll struggle to find a mention of what happened to Diane Abbott, let alone any messages of support.
Maybe racism and misogyny aren’t as troubling if they’re directed against someone who supports a leader you find inconvenient in spite of his massive democratic mandate – even when they’re perpetrated by the party you’re supposed to oppose.
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