(Bloomberg) -- Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said veteran Member of Parliament Diane Abbott should be allowed to stand again in the July 4 general election, suggesting a split at the top of the party over the treatment of the left-wing MP.  

“If she wants to stand then I don’t see any reason why she can’t stand,” Rayner said on Thursday in an ITV news interview. “Diane Abbott has given 37 years of service to the Labour Party and also to the country. She’s the first female Black MP that came into Parliament and she’s been a trailblazer. For me she is iconic.” 

Rayner is seeking to defuse a row that’s engulfed the Labour leadership over Abbott’s fate, after the BBC and other media said she wouldn’t be allowed to stand again in the London district of Hackney North and Stoke Newington which she has represented since 1987. 

While Labour Leader Keir Starmer himself has repeatedly denied that Abbott has been barred from seeking re-election, it’s an unwelcome distraction for Labour, which leads Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives by more than 20 points in recent polls, putting Starmer on course to enter Downing Street as prime minister in five weeks’ time.

Abbott, 70, was readmitted to the Parliamentary Labour Party this week, more than a year after being suspended after writing a letter to the Observer newspaper saying Jewish people do not face the same form of racism as Black people. After she was reinstated, there was speculation Labour wanted an elaborate choreography where Abbott would be welcomed back before announcing her retirement. But if that was the plan, the briefings that she wouldn’t be allowed to stand scuppered it.

“Any briefings like that I think are disgraceful,” Rayner said, adding she doesn’t know who was responsible.  

Other left-wingers have also found their path to election or re-election for Labour blocked. Starmer kicked former Leader Jeremy Corbyn out of the party months ago in a row over antisemitism, while Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who’s represented a seat in Brighton in southern England since 2017, said Wednesday that he was barred from standing again after being suspended due to a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint” about his behavior before entering office. Also this week, Faiza Shaheen said she’d been removed as a candidate for Chingford and Wood Green. 

“There is a process around vetting of candidates,” Rayner said when asked about Shaheen’s case, and whether there was a purge of the left. “I’ve not seen or been involved in that formal process.”

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