Born In: Paddington, London, England, United Kingdom
Diane Abbot is a British politician who became the first woman of African descent to be elected to the House of Commons. Born to immigrant parents from Jamaica, Abbot became conscious of race-related bias as early as her school days. She was an ambitious girl and very early on decided to work towards getting the best education that she could. Her dream came true and she went to Cambridge for her graduate studies. Abbot had always been sure of what she wanted and after her graduation, she secured herself a job in the Home Office. This was her initiation into public life, though for a few years she worked in the media she came back to politics. Once in active politics, she won a seat in the parliament from a constituency that had the largest number of immigrants. During her life in politics, she has been a vocal supporter of human rights issues, women’s and children’s issues. She is also a pro-choice supporter and has voted for same-sex marriage. She has also voted for Britain to remain in the European Union. She has frequently been criticized by her own party as well as the media for her frank statements regarding issues she believes in.
Also Known As: Diane Julie Abbott
Spouse/Ex-: David Thompson (m. 1991–1993)
father: Reginald Abbott
mother: Julia Abbott
siblings: Hugh Abbott
children: James Abbott Thompson
Born Country: England
City: London, England
education: Newnham College, University of Cambridge, Harrow College, University of Cambridge
Diane Abbot was born on September 27, 1953. She is the daughter of Reginald and Julia who were immigrants from rural Jamaica. She has a younger brother.
Both her parents had left school at 14 and come to England in 1953 and lived in Paddington. Abbot’s father worked as a welder and her mother as a nurse.
When her parents’ marriage ended in a divorce Abbot’s mother left Abbot and her younger brother and moved to Yorkshire. Left with her father, Abbot had to take charge of the housework. She had to cook, clean as well as do her school work. It was a difficult time for her.
She attended the ‘Harrow County Grammar School’ where she remembered being feeling slighted when her first-grade teacher accused her of copying the essay she had written, assuming that a black kid was incapable of writing like that.
Even as a child Abbot strove to excel. In her sixth form, she asked a teacher how she could get into Cambridge. When the teacher said she didn’t have the ability, Abbot wasn’t discouraged. She went ahead and earned a place at Cambridge’s Newnham College.
At Newnham Abbot studied history and had as her teacher stalwarts such as Sir Simon Schama. She graduated with a second-class degree.
After her graduation, Diane Abbot applied for a job at the Home Office. When asked why she wanted the life of a civil servant she unhesitatingly replied that she wanted power. She worked at the home office as an administrative trainee from 1976 to 1978.
In 1978 she became a Race Relations Officer at the National Council of Civil Liberties which is an advocacy group for the protection of civil liberties. She was the first black employee of the council.
Abbot switched her career for a while and started working as a reporter for Thames Television in 1980. In 1983 she joined TV-am television company as a researcher.
Abbot followed her stint in the media by becoming a press and public relations officer at the Greater London Council in 1985. She worked under Ken Livingstone.
In 1986 she became the principal press officer at the Lambeth Borough Council.
Though Diane Abbot had not held any political post, she had been a member of the Labour party since 1971. Abbot made an entry into active politics by getting elected to the Westminster City Council in 1982. This was the ward she was born in and she held this post for the next four years.
In 1985 Diane Abbot made her first attempt to enter parliament as a Labour candidate. Her opponent was Ken Livingstone and he defeated her easily.
Abbot attempted for a Labour candidacy again in 1986 from Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She succeeded this time, defeating MP Ernest Roberts.
As the first black woman MP, Abbot tried to form a black Caucus in the parliament similar to what exists in the USA. However, the idea did not get support as senior party MPs felt that it would create a “party within a party”.
Diane Abbot has been known for her controversial and frank views. She once called Britain the most racist nation on earth.
Abbot has frequently faced criticism from the media, Labour Party and her constituency. She has been called a “one-issue MP” by the media. Her constituency blamed her for spending more time in the USA and Jamaica and accused her of not doing enough for the immigrants in Hackney.
Abbot served in various parliamentary committees through the 1990s including the Treasury Select Committee for the House of Commons and Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
When Diane Abbot became a mother in 1991 there were no crèches in the House of Commons. She remembers the quizzical looks that she got as she got her baby son to work with men asking her why she didn’t have a nanny.
In May 2010 Abbot contested for the role of leader of the Labour Party. She got the required nominations but was eliminated in the first round of voting. Ed Miliband went on to win the leadership.
Miliband appointed Abbot as the Shadow Minister of Public Health. She worked on a wide range of issues from children’s and maternity health to tobacco and alcohol abuse. The Telegraph called her “Labour’s best front bench performer” She was removed from this position on October 8, 2013.
Abbot has been a “pro-choice” supporter of abortion rights. She also voted in favour of same-sex marriage bill on February 5, 2013.
In 2014, Abbot expressed her wish to be the Labour party’s candidate for the London Mayoral election. However, she lost the nomination in 2015.
Abbot became the Shadow Health Secretary on 27 June, 2016, after the mass resignations of many of the Labour ministers over the Brexit referendum.
Abbot became the Shadow Home Secretary on October 6, 2016 after Andy Burnham resigned.
In the 2017 elections, Abbot was re-elected from Hackney North and Stoke Newington with a large majority.
In February 2020 Diane Abbot stood down from her position as the Shadow Home Secretary. The same year in April, she was appointed to the Home Affairs Selection Committee.
Diane Abbot married David Thompson, an architect from Ghana, in 1991. Their son, James, was born the next year. The marriage disintegrated in 1993 and Abbot became a single mother.
Abbot has been criticised for sending her son to a private school. In her defence, she said that she did that because her research showed that as a black child, things could go very wrong for her son if he went to the wrong school.
During the 2017 general election campaign, Abbot appeared on many TV interviews and made some major gaffes. She later said this was due to the strain of the campaign that had made her Type 2 Diabetes go out of control.
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