diane abbott has done neither herself, nor her party, any favours during this election. The Shadow Home Secretary had an inadequate grasp of her party’s policing plans, and their cost, before being sidelined. And, when she did return to the fray, she floundered when asked, quite reasonably, about counter-terrorism measures in London. Many Labour supporters were relieved when she pulled out of a pre-arranged debate on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. It’s not the first time Ms Abbott has become indisposed at a key moment – she also missed a key Commons vote on the triggering of Brexit’s Article 50.
However, her political career does need placing in perspective. Thirty years ago, she made history by becoming the first black woman to be elected to Parliament and her presence at Westminster has helped to make the House of Commons more diverse. And while Ms Abbott’s opinions on range of issues, including terrorism, are incompatible with the views of the mainstream majority, independent-minded backbenchers are an important function of any Parliamentary democracy. The lesson here is that some are simply not cut out for the front bench or, in Diane Abbott’s case, one of the so-called great offices of state, responsible for the nation’s security, in the still unlikely event of Labour winning power tomorrow.