WITH the polls not budging, the election does seem Labour’s to lose, which is why Keir Starmer has been so sensibly cautious so far in his campaigning.

But the Diane Abbott situation drowned out what should have been another moderately successful day for him.

With shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, one of Labour’s rising stars, Mr Starmer was outlining positive plans to wipe out the NHS backlog within five years, introduce 40,000 extra appointments within the first year, and double the number of scanners.

Yet the mess over Ms Abbott’s status seemed to get deeper as the day went on.

First of all, there was the investigation into Ms Abbott’s views on racism which Mr Starmer thought was on-going yet turned out to have been concluded in December. This meant Ms Abbott could be restored to the party, but there then emerged the suggestion that she was barred from standing as an MP, which Mr Starmer dismissed.

Ms Abbott does divide opinion. To some she is a trailblazer as the first black female MP who has stood up valiantly in the face of appalling abuse for her community. Others, though, point out that she was an integral part of the left-wing Corbyn regime that was rejected overwhelmingly by voters in 2019 – particularly in “traditional” Labour seats in Durham and the Tees Valley.

Perhaps Mr Starmer feels there is some merit in being seen to be standing up to that unpopular left, but the day closes with Ms Abbott’s precise situation unclear and as her future is unresolved, the questions will reappear, drowning out more of Labour’s campaigning. The mess needs to be sorted out – although is it messy enough to be cutting through to ordinary voters who are deeply concerned about the state of their NHS?