Bolivia Newton-John's Blog

Who cares if Diane Abbott is black? | June 9, 2010

Coverage of Diane Abbott’s candidacy in the Labour leadership election seems to be focussing on her gender and race. Many Labour figures commenting on her candidacy seem to be openly celebrating the tokenism afforded by her being a black woman. Frankly, I do not believe it should matter if she is black, nor that she is a woman, but her selling point should surely be that she is honest, independent and principled, and has a personality? Is it not incredibly patronising to someone who has worked hard through a long career, and possesses the necessary ambition and competence to be a plausible leadership candidate, to focus on her gender and race, rather than characteristics that would actually make her a good leader, and which are down to her hard work and skill. Furthermore, is it not the whole point of the anti-racism and anti-sexism movements to have the opinions and voices of women and ethnic minorities taken as equal in worth to men and white people, without such characteristics being taken into account? It seems to me that the Labour Party is guilty of the tokenism to which it so often falls foul. If Diane Abbott is good, she is good because she is good, not because she is black, or because she is a woman. The endgame is for those characteristics to be irrelevant, and no statistical equality will ever be a substitute for actual equality.

Furthermore, talking about things in those terms risks going too easy on the other candidates. There is suggestion from some that the main drawback to the other candidates is that they are “all Oxbridge educates males in their 40s with similar careers”. Now there is no reason that an Oxbridge educated male in his 40s with a certain career is a bad candidate at all. What makes these men bad candidates is that they are all incredibly uninspiring, incompetent and, in Ed Balls’ case, complete and utter bastards. Supporting Diane Abbott over them purely on the grounds that they have certain existential similarities ignores the fact that she has more personality and charisma by far. So continue to say Abbott is the best candidate, if you think so, but for the right reasons, otherwise you risk patronising someone who has the potential to greatly improve the modern Labour Party with her ideas, rather than her demographic details.

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2 Comments »

  1. Diane Abbott. Some Integrity At Last

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/diane-abbott-some-integrity-at-last/

    Comment by Peter Reynolds — June 9, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  2. Diane Abbot has praised aspects of Spike Lee’s She’s Got to Have It that, in her opinion, could only have been thought of by a black writer. Clearly, this sentiment can be applied to the political arena.

    However, I think she is taking one for team Labour and attempting to show the country (however illogical this may be) that the Labour Party is woman/black friendly (something she believes). I agree the coverage has been distasteful. BBC news had two bullet points next to her that basically said- 1. Black. 2. Left wing.
    Also, agree about the Oxbridge point. I want mega-nerds in government. Disagree that millipedes are incompetant (obvs).

    Who will be laughing when millipede D makes her shadow foreign secretary. slither…

    Comment by Sherlock — June 9, 2010 @ 9:42 pm


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About author

Bolivia Newton-John is an enthusiast from South East London. She will be mostly writing about society, anthropology, politics and entertainment, though hopefully in a less pretentious manner than here indicated. Bolivia Newton-John likes diplomacy, irony, and seeing the big picture. Bolivia Newton-John dislikes misanthropy, self-importance, and censorship.

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