Abbott, I get it. Afro-Diane was a different you

By Kate Baldwin

There’s no question that Diane Abbott has made a few interview gaffes in her time. It’s fair to say, for instance, that numbers aren’t her thing.

However, the latest interview ‘mishap’ on today’s Andrew Marr show where, while commenting on her previous pro-IRA statements, she remarked that “I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don’t have the same hairstyle, I don’t have the same views…” Well, it doesn’t seem so much a media gaffe, rather a metaphor that a surprising number of political commentators just don’t seem to get and, as such, is getting far more attention than it deserves.

 Because I get it. I get that afro, IRA-loving Diane is different to the Shadow Minister with the straight bob that we know today. I also understand how if you’ve never experimented with or changed your image, that it may seem a pretty ridiculous comment to make.

But as someone who started dying their hair fire engine-red to kick off my uni career, far from my teacher parents; someone who went blonde before a year-aboard prancing around a tropical island and the south of France; and someone who went back to being au naturel after starting my first professional job in London and when £80 on highlights seemed a very unnecessary expense… Well, I  understand how making such big changes to your image represent a different time in your life. A different you.

I don’t have all the same ideas a red-headed Kate, nor the same opinions as blond Kate. I don’t have the same complexes about my forehead as when I got a heavy fringe, nor the sassy ‘I’m an adult, I can do what I want” vibe as when I got my nose pierced on a day out at Camden Market.

Not everyone will identify different moments in their life through their image. Not everyone will understand that such a marked change in image can be a signal of a new stage in life: a move from the preferences, associates and ideas that we once had.

 Not everyone has to understand Diane Abbott’s afro remark. But while I’m sorry to disappoint, it’s not the blundered, unconsidered comparison that so many commentators seem desperate to present it as.

For that, well let’s wait and see what she says next week.

Kate Baldwin is Deputy Chairman of the Parliament Street Technology Forum

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