* Hackney MP surprises then embarrasses BBC
* Tactical clanger excludes local paper
* Real ambition is a shadow cabinet place
DIANE ABBOTT’S campaign to lead the Labour Party got off to a rocky start today when she upset both the BBC and a local newspaper within minutes of announcing her candidature on the Today programme.
The corporation was annoyed because hardly had the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington dropped her small bombshell during an interview with James Naughtie than another candidate’s people were phoning to complain.
The programme had to make a quick correction because Abbott had said, wrongly, that John McDonnell, Hayes and Harlington MP and one of the other five hopefuls to succeed Gordon Brown as party leader, had realised he would not get the requisite backing of 33 Labour MPs.
Worse was her decision to give the news to the BBC beyond the deadline of the weekly Hackney Gazette, which came out this morning Thursday 20 May 2010. A Gazette insider says: “We are a bit angry about her announcing it on the BBC rather than giving us the break, but that was always a certainty as she works for the BBC; she’s a fixture on the political show This Week.”
Or did the 57-year-old just blurt it out to Naughtie without really thinking? Her press officer would have wanted to co-ordinate the announcement with both the BBC and the local paper. After all, Sally Scott was in her previous job, a reporter at the Hackney Gazette.
The bungled launch shows a lack of judgment that will not impress Labour MPs when the time comes in a few months to vote for candidates, nor when, having got nowhere in the contest, as is likely, she later puts herself up as candidate to be a shadow cabinet minister. Opponents are already whispering: “Never say Di”.
David Altheer 200510
* Backstory: Abbott’s immigration bloomer