Some MPs are kept busy by their work; others are kept yet busier by the need to keep tabs on a viciously hostile and deliberately dishonest press. So it is for Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott, who has to balance her constituency duties with being a Labour front bencher, an occasional media pundit, and fielder of constant efforts by the right-leaning press to demonise her, which is not a manifestation of racism, oh no.
Ms Abbott’s determination, and her patience, was tested to the limit after the recent death of a young black man called Rashan Charles. As the BBC reported, “Rashan Charles, 20, was wrestled to the ground in Dalston, east London, on 22 July, and died about an hour later … Mr Charles was pursued by officers and became ill after trying to swallow an object, the Met has said … He died soon after in hospital”.
Protests followed the death. The BBC again: “On Friday, clashes broke out in Hackney as protesters blocked part of Kingsland Road and set mattresses alight”. The family’s spokesman sought to calm tensions: “We understand your frustration, we understand your anger - don't feel that the family doesn't feel the anger and the frustration too … But what the family knows is taking it to the streets doesn't give you justice … Burning down your own homes, burning down your neighbourhood is not going to give you justice”.
While that statement was being made, standing at the left of the picture and behind the family spokesman was … Diane Abbott. So it was rather obvious that she, at least implicitly, endorsed the call for peaceful protest. This rather obvious message, though, somehow failed to get through to the Sun and the Mail.
So it was that the Murdoch goons told their readers “Diane Abbott DEFENDS rioters who attacked cops with bottles and sparked fires in East London over death of Rashan Charles - with more rampages feared”. The Dacre doggies at the Mail concurred: “Local MP Diane Abbott defends rioters who hurled petrol bombs at Police in Hackney over death of man as he was arrested but calls for calm amid fears of new London riots”.
Did she say that? Well, no she didn’t: this is what she sent the people at Mail Online: “The anger and upset at the death of Rashan Charles in understandable. But Rashan’s family have explicitly spoken out against hostile actions. We must respect their wishes and any protests must be peaceful”. No defence of rioting. At all.
So Ms Abbott’s frustration was understandable: “Today's @MailOnline claims I defended the hurling of petrol bombs at Police! Here's their headline vs what I actually said. I am disgusted … And @TheSun follow suit! Again Me vs the headline. Any unrest in our communities is serious. Not a 'click-bait' game. Report with respect”.
Did the press take that on board? The Sun tried its damnedest not to, as she later observed: “New headline in @TheSun is still misleading. Suggests I condone violence but if you read on and they belatedly acknowledge my call for peace”. So the Murdoch goons are still trying to have their Labour-bashing cake and eat it, then.
Give up the demonisation of Diane Abbott, Sun and Mail people. If it really worked, she wouldn’t have scored over 75% of the popular vote last month. Just a thought.