Election 2017

General election 2017: Diane Abbott pulls out of BBC interview

Diane Abbott Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Diane Abbott has insisted she is not being asked to stay away from the TV and radio studios

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott pulled out of a BBC interview at the last minute, citing illness.

She had been scheduled to appear on a special election edition of Radio 4's Woman Hour alongside Home Secretary Amber Rudd and other political rivals.

But shortly before transmission, it was announced that shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry would take her place.

Ms Abbott had downplayed claims Labour wanted her to adopt a lower profile after several faltering performances.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defended his colleague, saying she had been a "great advocate for the Labour Party" who had received "an awful lot of very unfair criticism and abuse in the past".

"She's not well at the moment and is taking a break from the campaign," he added.

During an appearance on Sky News on Monday, Ms Abbott rejected suggestions that the party leadership regarded her as a liability after an LBC interview earlier in the campaign when she failed to put an accurate cost on the party's plans to fund 10,000 new police officers.

She said she was appearing regularly in the media and it would be "strange" if she was not doing so at a time of heightened concern about security and policing after the terror attacks in London and Manchester.

Ms Abbott had been booked to appear on a specially extended edition of the flagship Radio 4 show, hosted by Jane Garvey, to discuss the terror threat and other issues. But Labour said she was unwell and Ms Thornberry deputised for her.

The Conservatives said Labour were "hiding" Ms Abbott away from voters as she was "not trusted" by Mr Corbyn, a close ally and friend of hers, and other colleagues.

On Monday, Ms Abbott was questioned by Sky's Dermot Murnaghan over the findings of a 2016 report by Labour peer Lord Harris into London's preparedness for a terror attack.

She insisted she had read the document but former terror watchdog Lord Carlile said her answers showed she was "not fit" to be in charge of home affairs policy.

The BBC's assistant political editor Norman Smith said it was not the first time that Ms Abbott, a seasoned media performer, had been absent at "key moments" and "cynics suspect some in Labour circles think Emily Thornberry would be a safer pair of hands".

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