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:

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
  • polly

    I would like to know, by what authority the politicians have to waste taxpayers money ,
    on this project.

  • Finn Arundssen

    According to whom is there any useful contribution been made? In most cases, that would be a matter of debate where a politician is concerned.

  • Fred

    … [Deleted by moderator]

  • Alan

    Isn’t it about time the treason laws were dusted off to deal with this 650 strong gang of quislings, charlatans, fraudsters,thieves and downright lying bastards

  • aa

    All the MP’s should pay back every penny. I hope the public will remember this for the next election.

  • Alan Gilpin

    Using public money to pay for a portrait of anyone, MP or not, is obscene. If they want one let them pay for it themselves. To pay nearly £12,000 for one is criminal no matter how good it is and whoever authorised it should be mad to pay out of their own pocket.

  • Deborah Gibson

    It all depends on how you view art and art-works. i think art is as good a way for the government to spend public money – better that than on weapons. the members of parliament chosen for their portratits are deemed to be important in the life of government and Diane Abbott has made a massive contribution, not least by way of being the first black woman politician who has had to endure a great deal of racism. By her very presence she has raised the profile of black women let alone the work she has done on behalf of the country, those who voted her into her seat and all her constituency.

  • Utterly sickening and disgraceful on any level….making tax-payer pay….the price of the portrait…the quality of the portrait…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! “Elp! Let me off this bus immediately! The hypocrisy of her stance as a ‘labour politician…as a rich socialist she can afford to pay for the damn thing herself and should be made to!!!





  • David cordier

    Question , was her portrait the only one paid for ! Or are we just singling her out , and who decided that it could be purchased.

  • John Creighton

    Food banks, Child poverty,0 contracts. DONKEY LABOUR MP. Posted by a union member Labour supporter.

  • Derek Massey

    Who’d want to buy that it’s okay if you want to frighten the kids

  • patricia hunter

    whatever it was…….. WELL SAID FRED 🙂

  • Larry

    Inbelievably the artist has made her even uglier than normal

  • glenn

    Gordon i agree 100 % mate , i personally think it would be much better if”she” wore a burka

  • glenn

    Hi Derek , dartboard ?

  • Steve Lane

    “a significant contribution to UK political life over the centuries” ….Is this a joke? what an earth has she done except for repeatedly shaming herself.
    When I gave her evidence of blatant corruption in Hackney council she said she didn’t know who to believe and so she did nothing – the corruption continues. Thanks for nothing Dianne you are not fit for purpose let alone a portrait.

  • She’s been subject to it? She is the biggest racist going look on YouTube and watch some of her interviews, she’s vile!!

  • Richard Watts

    Well said Alan.

  • Richard Watts

    So Deborah, being black makes a “massive contribution” to British politics?? Are you kidding? I would have thought that it’s one’s ability to perform, not ones skin colour, and what other things has she been so great at, apart from raking in loadsamoney and being very racist herself? Maybe people in London should poke their heads out of the “Big Bubble” occasionally, there are whole countries full of people surrounding it, what they think matters too, unfortunately it seems to be only the “London club” that gets listened to.

  • Richard Watts

    I agree with you both. But please, not a Burka. There’s far too many being worn, besides, I think Abbott would enjoy wearing one. A Sack would be more appropriate for her, that’s if there’s one big enough for her fat chops.

  • Why is it a waste to purchase art? Can’t stand Abbott but that’s a different matter

  • Darren

    This is exactly the kind of reason why Trump won, it wasn’t all about immigration. People trust him to stop this kind of waste and he will….. The UK need someone with the same strength and resilience.

  • Mike

    “In the case of my own picture, when it was commissioned 11 years ago I had no knowledge of the portrait’s cost.” No and she didn’t care because other people were working and paying taxes to pay for it.

  • Mark Horney

    and yet children with cerebral palsy are being denied treatment to walk on NHS for the same cost are being denied treatment.

    How sick is that.

  • Damien

    More important than a boy with cerebral palsy who could not have a £10k operation on cost grounds . I think not

  • Vee

    MP Means Magpie in my eyes.The thieving Barstards

  • Chrissie Horsley

    What racist and sexist crap some of you guys come out with! With men around like you, wimmin will never have equality. Shame on you all!

  • Their authority derives from the fact that a democratic election brought to power those that made and those that did not oppose such decisions on our behalf. If you don’t like it, statrt a movement to get those in power to resign or run against them in the next election ….

  • Read the article, Dave – The answer’s in the text …..

  • I’m sure you spelled ‘women’ the way you did to elicit a response – well there you go, Chrissie, you got it….. If you don’t have the education to spell ‘women’ correctly, how can your comments be taken seriously …..?

  • £11,750? “Commissioned 11 years ago” (2003 tracking back from date of post) – what would that be worth in today’s money (Feb 2017)? Around £17,500 today (Bank of England inflation calculator)

  • The reason I posted the above comment was to indicate the true value of what was paid; even so, £11750 today to pay a portrait artist, is not peanuts, let alone £17,500!!

  • Edward Dawson

    Art is always a good thing, even if you dislike the subject. It also costs money, and shouldn’t be decried. This is one of many contemporary pictures in Portcullis House. Some are better than others, and the Art Collection should encourage public subscription, in order to avoid such accusations.


Sign up for Hackney news straight to your inbox with our weekly Friday digest - also featuring special offers, competitions and more
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Secure and Spam free...