Diane Abbott has been made shadow public health minister by new Labour leader Ed Miliband. My claim, below, that she is on course for the Lords has been overtaken by events. But rather than run yet another story about her, or delete the one below to prevent my embarrassment, I leave it there as a record of what was possible at the time it was written. Or as a record of the riskiness of second-guessing politicians.
– David Altheer, Editor
The dice that Diane Abbott threw in an attempt to lift her political career in the safe Labour seat of Hackney North and Stoke Newington have clattered off the gaming table.
Having lost to Ed Miliband in her game plan to lead the Labour Party the Hackney champion must now realise that her number is unlikely to come up for one of the 19 places in the Shadow Cabinet. The Guardian’s political reporter, Hélène Mulholland, for example, expects the backbencher to lose out in a crowded field — as many as 50 — of the party’s 258 MPs.
This raises an issue that will excite wannabe-agains such as Oona King, the 42-year-old former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow who last month lost to Ken Livingstone, 65, for the chance to challenge Boris Johnson in the 2012 London mayoral elections.
Results of applications for the Shadow Cabinet are to be announced this month. Ed Miliband will have the last say on MPs’ choices.
When Milliband first spoke about the rivals he defeated for the leadership and referred generally to a future Shadow Cabinet he sounded encouraging — about all but one of them.
In any case, Abbott, famous for sharing a TV chatshow sofa with Michael Portillo, has never managed to win the affection shown by her Westminster colleagues to Tony Benn, Dennis Skinner and other Labour leftists.
Having come last in the leadership contest, if Abbott fails to become the shadow “voice for London”, as she wants to be, she could expect at some time to be given the compensation prize of a peerage.
For Abbott, a peerage could be the start of a new career – at 57.
Valerie Amos, a frequent visitor to Afro-Caribbean friends in Dalston, was made a baroness, Labour leader in the House of Lords and then High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Australia.
Baroness Amos next got herself a post travelling the world for the United Nations, a year after taking up the Canberra job.
Of course, Ed Miliband may confound Loving Dalston’s speculation by holding it against Abbott that her prime nominee in the leadership election was his brother David. Surprisingly, her branch voted for MiliDave.
Abbott told Loving Dalston: “I am certainly not after a peerage. If I am unsuccessful in joining the Shadow Cabinet, I will happily continue my duties as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, as I have for the past 23 years.”