UK left-of-centre Labour Party politician, member of Parliament from 1987 for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. The first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons, she has been on the left wing of the party, defying Tony Blair's 1997–2007 government over the abandonment of some traditional socialist policies and foreign policy and civil liberty issues, such as military action in Iraq in 2003 and counterterrorism proposals in 2008. In 2000 she became a member of the Greater London Assembly advisory cabinet for women and equality. She contested unsuccessfully for the party's leadership after Labour's defeat in the May 2010 general election, and was appointed shadow minister for public health by the party's new leader, Ed Miliband, in October 2010.
A member of the Labour Party from 1971, Abbott's political career began when she was elected to Westminster City Council in 1982 (until 1986). She also served as a press officer at the Greater London Council and as head of Lambeth Council's press office before her election to Parliament in 1987. She was a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee 1994–97; served on the Commons treasury and civil service select committee 1989–97; and on the foreign affairs select committee 1997–2001. She has continued her media career as a political commentator on television and as a newspaper columnist.
Born in London to Jamaican parents, she gained a masters degree in history at Cambridge University. She then worked as an administrative trainee at the Home Office 1976–78 and as race relations officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties 1978–80 before taking up a career in journalism as a television researcher and reporter.
She attracted criticism when she sent her son to private school in 2003, in the light of her previous opposition to fee-paying education.