Abbott said it was 'going up to Cambridge' which made her 'committed to fighting' for equality and justiceWikimedia Commons

Labour MP Diane Abbott has revealed that her inspiration “to fight for equality and justice” came from her time as a student at Newnham College in Cambridge.

In an interview on The News Agents podcast last Friday (17/03), journalist Lewis Goodall asked Abbott if there was a moment or event which inspired her to want to go into politics. Abbott said that although she was not sure that it inspired her to go into politics, it was “going up to Cambridge” which made her “committed to fighting” for equality and justice.

Abbott told Goodall that on her second day at Newnham College “all the people studying history had to go and see the history tutor, and we were all sitting on the floor cross legged and I looked around me and I thought ‘oh my goodness’.”

Abbott continued: “There were all these upper-class white girls and I thought ‘what have you done now’. And it was the contrast between the people I had grown up knowing and the girls I was at college with which made me aware of what an unfair, unjust, unequal society it was and so I’ve always been committed to fighting that.”

Abbott also told The News Agents that when she first tried to apply to Cambridge and “had to say to my History teacher I wanted to do the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exam, her lip curled and she said: ‘But I don’t think you’re up to it’.”


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Abbott was the first Black woman elected to Parliament and is currently the longest serving Black MP in the House of Commons. Abbott has been the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, and served as Shadow Home Secretary for four years in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet.

Abbott matriculated in 1973 at Newnham alongside classicist Mary Beard, studying History and graduating with a 2:2 degree. Abbott has previously said that she “will always be proud of having come from Newnham” and that Cambridge was the “making of me”.

Abbott has said that her experience at Newnham “was a learning curve” but that Cambridge “helped immensely to instil confidence to be different, but also to be proud of that difference”.

After being removed from the Shadow Cabinet by Keir Starmer, Abbott now remains in the House of Commons as a backbencher.