Diane Abbott enters Labour leadership race

Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP makes surprise announcement that she will be the sixth person t

Diane Abbott has thrown her hat into the ring, announcing that she will stand for the Labour leadership.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington told the BBC's Today programme that her bid was "serious", and would offer Labour a choice, given the similarities between the other candidates.

This unexpected addition certainly brings something different to a race which, until now, was populated mainly by white, Oxbridge-educated men in their forties -- Ed and David Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham all fit the bill, while John McDonnell is 59, and went to Brunel.

Abbott says she is confident that she will gain the necessary backing of 33 Labour MPs by 27 May, expecting support from MPs on the left of the party, and from women MPs.

Abbott -- a 57-year-old Cambridge graduate -- was the UK's first black female MP in 1987, and remained the only one for ten years.

Quite apart from being a black woman entering the fray in a very white, male political setting, she represents a more left-leaning set of ideas than the candidates already in the running, many of whom are still tarred by their lingering association with Blair/Brown.

She is generally to the left of New Labour, and as a long-standing member of the party's Socialist Campaign Group, she stands a chance of garnering support from those MPs disappointed that Jon Cruddas ruled himself out.

If nothing else, this looks set to be an interesting contest.

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Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.