LONDON — The thought of Dianne Abbott becoming a government minister is putting off voters from backing Labour in next week’s general election, party sources have told Business Insider.
Shadow Home Secretary Abbott attracted unflattering headlines last month when in a calamitous interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari she failed to say how much Labour’s policy of recruiting 10,000 new police officers would cost.
The Labour MP’s reputation for making blunders has cut through with voters, sources both within Labour and the Liberal Democrats have told Business Insider, and is making many voters think twice about backing Labour next week.
A senior Lib Dem source told us this week that members of the public have brought up Abbott and her gaffe during numerous focus groups conducted ahead of the general election.
“People have been saying ‘who’s that woman in Labour who can’t do numbers?’ and when we show them a picture of Dianne Abbott they point at the picture and say ‘that’s her!’,” the Lib Dem source said.
“She’s really cutting through,” they added.
This feedback chimes with reports coming out of the Labour’s campaign that Abbott has frequently been brought up on doorsteps across the country — and not out of admiration for the MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington.
“Diane’s name keeps on coming up on the doorstep,” one Labour source told Business Insider.
“Voters, particularly in some of our core areas, are saying they can’t vote for Labour and it’s because of Diane,” they added.
“It’s not just that interview either. She’s getting a really strong negative reaction among our voters.”
Abbott is seen by Labour’s opponents as a weak link for the party.
Pollster Lord Ashcroft today published feedback from his final round of general election focus groups. Abbott’s LBC gaffe is repeatedly mentioned.
MEMBER OF PUBLIC: “It’s mostly the gaffes that stand out… The lady for Labour, when she completely messed up.”
FOCUS GROUP CHAIR: “Diane Abbott.”
MEMBER OF PUBLIC: “That’s the one. That sticks out for me.”
Abbott along with Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have been identified by voters in previous Lord Ashcroft focus groups as figures who make Labour an unappealing alternative to the Tories.
“He’s [Corbyn] surrounded by people… Diane Abbott! They’re not the cleverest people. I know she got trapped in a difficult situation, but the level of politician the Labour Party has is not the quality they had in the past,” a voter said in a focus group conducted last week.
Prime Minister Theresa May and other senior Conservative Party figures see Abbott as a chink in Labour’s armour and specifically identified her as a threat to the national interest in a number of recent campaign speeches.
May this week told supporters in South London to imagine a government including “Dianne Abbott who can’t add up in charge of our anti-terrorism work and undoing all the good work that we’ve done in relation to immigration over the years.”
Abbott — a close ally of Corbyn — was elected to the Commons 30 years ago and was the first non-white woman to ever sit in Parliament. She ran to be Labour leader in 2010 and has held numerous shadow cabinet positions.
Athough a divisive figure, she has long been a loyal supporter of the Labour leader and was, until her recent LBC interview, seen by Corbyn’s allies as his most reliable public defender.
Business Insider has contacted the Labour Party for comment.