A fundraising page has been set up for MP Diane Abbott after she temporarily stepped down from her post as shadow home secretary due to illness.
The creators of the GoFundMe page say they want to send the MP a care package, and any money donated above the cost of the package will go to charities.
Describing Abbott as “battling combined racism and sexism with one hand, and building up Hackney with the other”, co-creator Sophie Dukebox proposes a provisional package including TLC albums, homemade plantain and an “audio recording of Serena Williams reading Maya Angelou”, adding: “For real though, we are GENUINELY going to send DA a boom-ting care package, but after we raise the funds (estimated around £50) necessary to do so, every penny extra will be donated to charities that operate or are based in Hackney.”
The page goes on to say: “So she aint perfect. She slipped up more than once. She's abrasive.
“But the level of vitriol, recycled hate and scrutiny she's been subjected to in comparison to other (paler, maler) MPs who fudge their numbers, make spurious statements, actively offend and don't know their Brexit from their breakfast is objectively insane.”
On Wednesday (7 June), Labour announced Abbott would be taking a break, releasing a statement saying: “Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, has asked Lyn Brown to stand in for Diane Abbott as shadow home secretary for the period of her ill health.”
Another Labour MP, Barry Gardiner, said Abbott was “coming to terms” with being diagnosed with a long-term medical condition. He added: “Everybody is aware that Diane did not perform well on a couple of programmes, but what we didn’t know was why and I think that’s now become clear.”
Criticism of the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP has ramped up during the election campaign, after disastrous interviews on radio and TV, where she seemed to struggle to recall details.
On Wednesday (7 June), she was pictured on the front page of the Daily Mail, with Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell below the headline, ‘Apologists for terror’.
However the vitriol aimed at Abbott – parliament’s first black woman MP – has outraged many, who describe the recent criticism as tipping into bullying, after enduring sexist and racist abuse throughout her 30-year career in politics.
After the announcement, Corbyn told BBC Breakfast he was unsure when she would return, adding: “Diane is somebody that works extremely hard and represents her community very well and I have to say has received totally unfair levels of attack and abuse, not just recently – over many years.”
At lunchtime 7 June, she tweeted: “Touched by all the messages of support. Still standing! Will rejoin the fray soon. Vote Labour!”
In the following hours her Twitter account tweeted and retweeted others, prompting some, such as Piers Morgan, to claim she must have recovered.
Obviously others tweet from Diane's account at times. Understandably now would be one of those times.— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) June 7, 2017
Chef and food writer Jack Monroe wrote a lengthy Twitter thread (retweeted more than 6,000 times and reproduced on their website as a blog post) defending Abbott, while drawing on personal experience to illustrate the harm of constant online abuse.
“I get abuse every single day too, but I’d imagine it’s not a tenth of what Diane gets. But let me tell you about it, and you can multiply it by ten to get some idea […]
“Online abuse has made me suicidal more than once. I have taken the pills. I have stood on the train bridge. I have been driven insane. I have had periods where I have been unable to work because I am such a wreck from sustained hatred and vitriol. I have lost work. I have been literally driven insane by hatred from strangers. It interrupts, it diverts, it permeates, it seeps in, you bullying bastards.
“It’s there when you’re reading bedtime stories to your kids. It strangles you in your sleep. It follows you in your hand, in your head. It slowly destroys you from the inside, a rot starts to set in […] Imagine 30 years of getting up every day and putting your suit on and going back to work to make life better for your abusers despite them.
“Imagine the dedication required to give 30 years in service to people who regularly tell you to die.
“Diane Abbott is tougher than any one of you sitting here making your lame memes from behind anonymous screens.”
A hashtag, #AbbottAppreciation, has also been embraced on Twitter, with supporters highlighting what they appreciate her for.
Abbott has previously spoken about achieving her “extremely unlikely aspiration” to be a member of the UK parliament, writing for The Guardian in February on the sexist, racist abuse, rape and death threats she receives online on a daily basis, as well as describing several incidents by fellow politicians – including one Tory councillor who tweeted a picture of her as an ape in lipstick.
“I am well aware that there are people who will deny it happens, others who seem to think that sexist abuse is the price women pay for being in public life, and some who just don’t care,” she wrote. “Thirty years ago I entered parliament to try and be the change I wanted to see. Despite the personal attacks and the online abuse, that struggle continues.”
BuzzFeed News says its analysis of viral news stories has shown that 10% of the most viral right-wing stories during this election have been attacks on Abbott.
The GoFundMe page donations currently stand at almost £3,000 of a £5,000 target, and ends the page description with, “Hold back the hate guys. This is a time for love. #noracism #nosexism #nomisogynoir”.
Main image: Rex Features