In 1987 Diane Abbott was the first black woman to be elected to British parliament. She is MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington & Shadow Home Secretary.
Interview: Yasemin Cusack
Who is your role model, and why?
My role-model is my maternal grandmother now deceased. Very loving, very dignified, very respected and lived all her life in the Jamaican countryside. Which she was completely at one with.
What has motivated you to represent Hackney in parliament for such a long time?
My motivation for being an MP is to leave the world a better place and to be a voice for the voiceless.
Has being a politician ever affected your private life?
It is very difficult to be an MP and have a functioning private life. For one thing, private time gets squeezed out of your schedule.
What are you most proud of doing as MP for Hackney?
Working with Ken Livingstone, the Labour Mayor, and the Labour government I successfully lobbied for the new Overground line and a series of new schools. They included Mossbourne, the City Academy and millions were spent on rebuilding Clapton Girls School amongst many others.
“I am living near a beach in Jamaica busy reading; painting and learning to play the piano“
Could you give me a marketing slogan to promote Hackney abroad?
Hackney, culturally pre-eminent, the world in one London borough.
In the last election Hackney voted you in with your largest ever majority. How do you feel about the result?
I was very humbled by the size of my majority. I was targeted nationally by the Tories and subject to a horrific racist onslaught online. But the people of Hackney rallied to me demonstrating their love and loyalty in that big majority.
Politicians could still influence millions by using racist rhetoric in 2018. Why do you think racism still works in politics?
Racism works because fear works. And racism is all about fear.
How did Jo Cox’s death impact the way you think?
Through all the years of racist abuse and threats I had always shrugged it all off and said to myself “it will never happen” the death of Jo cox brought me up short and I had to think “maybe it will.”
What have been the worst and the best moments in your private and political life?
The worst moments in my political life were the months leading up to the 2017 election, when half of all abuse sent to women MPs was actually sent to me. My best moment was Labour winning the 1997 election after eighteen years of Tory rule. The worst moment of my personal life was my mother dying of cancer in 1990. The best moment of my personal life was my son being born in 1991.
Imagine yourself in another life where you aren’t a politician. Where are you and what are you doing?
I am living near a beach in Jamaica busy reading; painting and learning to play the piano
When have you been most satisfied in your life?
I was very satisfied when Jeremy Corbyn won his second leadership election.
Could you tell me about something you have learned in the past year?
I have learn the paramount importance of good health.
What things do you not like to do?
I don’t like ironing.
What would be your advice to young female political candidates?
Stay close to your friends.