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Labour’s Diane Abbott stands aside from election campaign for health reasons

The Labour grandee will take a break from her role as shadow home secretary. 

By Helen Lewis

Diane Abbott will stand aside as shadow home secretary “for the period of her ill health”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said today.

She will be replaced by shadow policing minister Lyn Brown.

The news follows Abbott’s withdrawal from two media appearances yesterday, and a much-criticised performance on Dermot Murnaghan’s Sky show on Monday night.

Abbott is one of Corbyn’s closest allies, and was featured alongside him and shadow chancellor John McDonnell on the front page of today’s Daily Mail as part of a “troika” who were “apologists for terror”. She has faced bruising press coverage throughout the campaign, with her stumble on LBC over police numbers leading to widespread mockery. The Conservatives’ James Cleverley accused her of disliking Britain based on comments she made about systemic racism in 1988. 

She has featured prominently in Conservative attack adverts throughout the campaign, and anecdotes from the doorstep and focus groups suggest that her gaffes have “cut through” with voters. Labour commentators such as Paul Mason have suggested that racism has played a part in this. In February, Abbott revealed that she has faced decades of racist and sexist abuse, writing in the Guardian: “I have had rape threats, death threats, and am referred to routinely as a bitch and/or nigger, and am sent horrible images on Twitter.”

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In a statement, Labour said: “Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, has asked Lyn Brown to stand in for Diane Abbott as shadow home secretary for the period of her ill health.”

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Corbyn told BBC Breakfast: “I’ll be talking to her later on today – she’s not well at the moment.” 

Lyn Brown, 57, is contesting the safe Labour seat of East Ham. She resigned from the shadow cabinet last summer when a vote of no-confidence was brought in Corbyn’s leadership, but later rejoined it.