Why wasn't Diane Abbott chosen to question Rishi Sunak?

  • Written by Kate Whannell
  • Political reporter

Video explanation,

Watch: Abbott stood up to try to get the speaker's attention 46 times

Diane Abbott is one of the most famous politicians in the United Kingdom. She was first elected to Parliament for the Labor Party in 1987, becoming the first black woman MP in the United Kingdom.

And this week, she was at the center of a major controversy after Frank Hester – the businessman who gave £10m to the Conservative Party – said she made him want to “hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

The comments shocked MPs from all parties and Rishi Sunak condemned them as “racist” (although he would not return the money).

It is not surprising that disagreement dominated Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

But despite standing more than 40 times – the way MPs indicate they want to ask a question in Parliament – she was not chosen to question the Prime Minister.

At the end of the session, Abbott shook her shoulders angrily, while the representatives around her seemed to express their surprise.

The Hackney North MP said: “I don't know whose interests the Speaker believes he is serving. But they are not the interests of the House of Commons or democracy.”

The Labor MP for Birmingham Erdington, Paulette Hamilton, agreed, telling the BBC: “Given that there was a group of white men standing up and talking about another member, surely she should have been allowed to have her say.”

Posting on social media sites, Kim Johnson, Labor MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: “Diane Abbott deserves the right to speak for herself about the racism she experienced from Frank Hester, a major Tory donor – and not just talk about it.”

“It is disappointing that the Speaker has not contacted her even though she has mentioned it nearly 40 times.”

Another Labor MP Belle Ribeiro-Addy said it was “fundamentally wrong for Diane Abbott to be denied the opportunity to speak for herself at PMQs about the vile racism she has faced”.

So why wasn't Mrs. Abbott chosen?

This is largely due to the rules governing the House of Commons.

Image source, Parliament of the United Kingdom/Maria Unger

Comment on the photo,

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is responsible for keeping order in the House of Commons

Prime Minister's Questions are held every Wednesday, while Parliament is in session, at midday.

MPs can come forward before the session to ask a question.

However, since there is rarely time to fit everyone in, a computer program randomly decides which representatives will get their shot.

Priority will be given to those selected in the ballot.

But the Speaker of the House of Representatives has something else to think about.

He must ensure that the MPs he chooses alternate between being from the ruling party (the Conservatives) and from the opposition (everyone else).

On Wednesday, only four of the randomly selected MPs were Conservatives – meaning Sir Lindsay had to choose other Conservatives to ensure the session was balanced.

“His hands were tied,” veteran Conservative MP David Davis said, noting that the Speaker was unable to choose an additional opposition MP to speak due to the number of people drawn on the ballot.

He added that Ms Abbott had been an MP for more than 30 years and would know how the rules worked.

While the Speaker must ensure balance, he also has discretion over who to call or how long the Prime Minister's Questions should last, said Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society, which researches Parliament.

She said Sir Lindsay could have explained to MPs that he would choose Ms Abbott, even though she was not on the official list, because she had been the subject of so much discussion.

“I believe he misread the mood of the council. He failed to recognize the unusual and extraordinary circumstances.”

Ms Fox added that Ms Abbott could have used a parliamentary move – called a point of order – to speak directly after Prime Minister's Questions. However, she said this would have been “unsatisfactory” because points of order receive much less attention than PMQs.

Comment on the photo,

Diane Abbott sits next to Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz in 1987

Following the criticism, Sir Lindsay's spokesman said: “During Prime Minister's Questions, the Speaker must select MPs from both sides of the House on a rotating basis to do justice.

“This is done within a limited time frame, with the President giving priority to members already listed on the order paper.

“This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to contact all members who wanted to ask a question.”

Of course, Ms Abbott has been an independent MP since last year, after her membership was suspended by the Labor Party.

The party withdrew the whip from Ms Abbott for saying in a letter to the Observer that Irish, Jews and Travelers had not experienced racism “in their entire lives”. She withdrew her statements and apologized “for any suffering caused.”

The MP may not have been selected for Prime Minister's Questions, but she has been able to make her voice heard in the newspapers – she has written articles for Watchman And The Independent As well as announcing her feelings on social media

As an experienced politician, she may not have said what she wanted to say on the floor of the House of Commons, but she knows how to get her point across.

See also  Yevgeny Prigozhin's son inherits the Wagner Group fortune

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *