Diane Abbott tells Starmer to embrace EU free movement to win back Brexiteers

Former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has urged Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to support the EU’s freedom of movement in a bid to win back the party’s Leave-voting heartlands.

Appearing on the BBC’s Today programme on Monday, the Labour MP for Hackney North insisted the party needed to adopt “a strategy for winning” and blasted Keir Starmer’s drawn-out shadow cabinet reshuffle which she said “took media attention away” from Labour mayoral election wins in places like West Yorkshire and Bristol yesterday.

“It’s clear from what happened over the weekend, particularly from what happened in Hartlepool, there is a problem with the strategy,” said Ms Abbott.

“I would like to see Keir Starmer return to the 10 policy pledges that he promised when he ran for the leadership, including abolishing universal credit, putting up taxes on the top 5 per cent.

“We want to unify the party and return to his 10 pledges,” she added.

One of those pledges included a commitment to defend free movement of people between the European Union and Brexit Britain, a key principle that was rejected by Brits in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

When it was highlighted to Ms Abbott, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, that the recently appointed shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves had previously ruled out a return to free movement, Abbott replied: “Keir did promise supporting freedom of movement when he ran for the leadership, so he needs to talk to Rachel Reeves.”

The Conservatives, who oversaw the end of free movement when Britain withdrew its EU membership last year, have seen their efforts rewarded with an electoral hattrick including the historic win in Brexit-backing Hartlepool, as well as holding key mayorals in Tees Valley and the West Midlands.

It’s not the first time Abbott’s comments have raised eyebrows in recent days, having previously been criticised for calling on the Labour leader to re-embrace Corbynism on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, despite it being pointed out to her that Corbyn’s 2019 electoral defeat was the worst suffered by the Labour Party since 1935.