This is a photograph of Diane Abbott, taken in 1979.

Who is Diane Abbott?

Diane Abbott (b. 1953) is an MP for the Labour Party representing Hackney North and Stoke Newington. Abbott has held her seat in the House of Commons since 1987, when she became Britain’s first Black female MP. She is the longest-serving Black MP in the House of Commons and during her tenure has also served as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Shadow Health Secretary, and Shadow Home Secretary.

Diane Abbott’s campaigns for racial justice

In a recording held in the British Library collections', Abbott has spoken about the importance of the 1981 Brixton Riots, as racial tensions between the police and the black community came to a climax. The riots were a ‘seismic’ shift in the political conversations about race. Abbott recalls that the riots ‘felt very empowering, and they also crystallised all sorts of stresses and strains that had been going on between the Black community and the state that had been going on for decades.’

As a politician and a Black activist, Abbott has been heavily involved in campaigns for racial justice, such as opposition to the stop-and-search policies of the police, which disproportionately targeted young Black men. She has also been a vocal proponent for reparations to victims of the Windrush scandal.