Diane Abbott did say that Chairman Mao did more good than harm

22 November 2019
What was claimed

Diane Abbott said that Chairman Mao did more good than harm.

Our verdict

Correct. During an episode of This Week in 2008 she said “I suppose that some people would judge that on balance Mao did more good than harm”.

A quote by Diane Abbott saying that former Chinese leader Mao Zedong did “more good than harm” has been shared numerous times on Facebook and Twitter with many users questioning its authenticity. 

The quote is genuine and comes from Ms Abbott’s appearance on a 2008 episode of This Week. 

During the show, host Andrew Neil ask Ms Abbott and former Conservative MP Michael Portillo: “Why is it right to wear a Maoist t-shirt, but obviously wrong, because it is, to wear a Hitler t-shirt?” 

Ms Abbott responds: “I suppose that some people would judge that on balance Mao did more good than harm; you can’t say that about the Nazis.”

Mr Neil and Mr Portillo then bring up the fact Mao killed millions of Chinese citizens—historians estimates vary but the broad consensus is that the Great Famine of the late 1950s and early 1960s, in part caused by Mao's economic policies, killed tens of millions. 

Ms Abbott then says: “He led his country from feudalism, he helped to defeat the Japanese, and he left his country on the verge of the great economic success they’re having now.”

Ms Abbott ends by saying “I was just putting the case for Mao.”

We’re not aware of Ms Abbott having addressed her remarks since the show aired. 

Correction 6 February 2020

We corrected a typo in the last line of the article to clarify Ms Abbott did say Mao did more good than harm.

Update 17 May 2021

This article has been updated to reflect the uncertainty around the number of Chinese citizens who died as a result of Mao's actions.

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