Starmer faces demands to reinstate Diane Abbott after welcoming ‘rightwing Tory MP’ into Labour

Keir Starmer is facing calls to let “trailblazing” MP Diane Abbott back into Labour as anger mounts over the shock defection of Natalie Elphicke.

The Labour leader is facing a fierce backlash to his decision to welcome Ms Elphicke, a controversial right-wing Conservative who has continually attacked his party over immigration.

Less than 24 hours after crossing the floor, the MP for Dover was forced to apologise for her comments about her ex-husband’s victims.

Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti told The Independent: “Like others, I look forward to Ms Elphicke’s first in-depth broadcast interview about her political journey to the Labour Party.

“In the meantime, if the tent is big enough for her, I feel sure that Britain’s first black woman MP who has sustained more racist and misogynist abuse than anyone, will have her whip restored urgently.”

Earlier Labour’s chair Anneliese Dodds said she had “enormous respect” for Ms Abbott as a trailblazer but could not comment on an independent process.

Charlie Elphicke was convicted of sexually assaulting two women and sentenced to two years in prison in 2020.

Ms Elphicke supported his unsuccessful appeal, saying he was an “attractive” man who had been “an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations”.

In a statement she said: “I have previously, and do, condemn his behaviour towards other women and towards me. It was right that he was prosecuted and I’m sorry for the comments that I made about his victims.”

Ms Abbott was suspended last year after she wrote a letter in which she suggested Jewish people are not subjected to the same racism as some other minorities.

Ms Abbott, who was shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, apologised and said the letter, published in The Observer newspaper, had been an “initial draft” sent in by mistake.

It stated that Jewish, Irish and traveller communities have experienced “prejudice”, but added: “This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.”

Within hours Labour said it condemned the remarks, which it said were “offensive and wrong” and suspended her pending an investigation.

In March she hit out at Labour, accusing it of “shocking” racism, after a Tory donor scandal.

Mr Sunak has refused to hand back a £10m donation from businessman Frank Hester after he allegedly said Ms Abbott made him “want to hate all Black women” and that she should be “shot”.

Ms Abbott hit out at Sir Keir and said: “The position of the current leadership of the Labour Party is disappointing, which seemed equally reluctant at the outset to call out either racism or sexism.

“Instead, the entire focus was on the demand that the Tories give Hester back his money, which is surely not the primary point in this case.”

Labour sources rejected the criticism and insisted they had been quick to condemn the donor, pointing to a comment from the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who described his words as racist hours after they were first published.

Asked how Ms Elphicke can be a Labour MP when Diane Abbott remains suspended, Ms Dodds told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “Look, I have enormous respect for Diane Abbott, she was an absolute trailblazer, and of course we set out those proposals for a new race equality act some weeks ago when I was really privileged to have been able to discuss those with her.

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