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News / 14 January, 2014

‘Nearly £12,000 of public money for portrait of Diane Abbott’… but what is MP’s view on art row?

Parliament’s pricey portrait purchases spark clash

Diane Abbott

Art attacked: Stuart Pearson Wright’s portrait of Diane Abbott MP. Image: parliament.uk

This painting of Diane Abbott is one of several artworks at the centre of a row over Parliament’s use of public funds to buy expensive portraits of MPs.

Stuart Pearson Wright’s portrait of the Labour Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP cost taxpayers £11,750, according to newspaper reports today.

It is part of the Parliamentary Art Collection owned jointly by the House of Commons and House of Lords and displayed throughout the Parliamentary Estate.

paper and cup diane abbott

Hackney MP Diane Abbott. Photograph: Aoife Moriarty

A spokesperson for Parliament said the collection aimed to record “those who have made a significant contribution to UK political life over the centuries” and added that the total annual budget for acquiring works of art for the collection has been reduced by around a third since 2010.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance said the sums of money being lavished on acquiring the paintings had “the whiff of an expensive vanity project”.

Update at 5.50pm on 14 January 2014:

The Hackney Citizen asked Ms Abbott whether she likes the portrait and thinks the acquisition of it by Parliament was a good use of public funds.

Ms Abbott replied: “The subjects of the portraits commissioned by Parliament are chosen by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. Many people seem to believe that these pictures are commissioned at the request of the individuals depicted, which is not the case. In the case of my own picture, when it was commissioned 11 years ago I had no knowledge of the portrait’s cost.”

/ 14 January, 2014

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