News | Published June 26 2020

Mixed response to Long-Bailey sacking

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's decision to sack shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has been met with a mixed response after she had retweeted an article which was alleged to have contained an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Long-Bailey’s sacking is the party’s latest bout with antisemitism allegations after being dogged by frequent controversies relating to the issue throughout Sir Keir's predecessor Jeremy Corbyn’s stint as leader.

The article in question was an interview on the Independent website with actress Maxine Peake, who suggested that the tactics used by Minneapolis police in the recent killing of George Floyd were learned from Israel’s secret services, claims which Jewish groups have dismissed as false.

The article itself also quoted the Israeli police force, which denied the claims.

Long-Bailey had retweeted the article with her own caption: “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond”, but later said that her retweet was “in no way” an “intention to endorse every part” of the article.

Since the Long-Bailey controversy emerged, Peake has spoken out to say that the claim was “inaccurate” and apologised for any offence caused.

Three hours after the retweet was posted, Sir Keir asked Long-Bailey to stand down.

Jewish groups and some MPs praised Sir Keir’s zero tolerance approach, while a Labour spokesperson said that the party leader had “been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community” was “a number one priority”.

The Jewish Labour Movement also backed Sir Keir’s choice to dispense with Long-Bailey, while the Board of Deputies of British Jews praised his “swift action”.

John Mann, an ex-Labour MP and current government adviser on antisemitism, also backed Sir Keir’s decision.

He said: “I’m delighted and very reassured. I think across the Jewish community, reassurance is the word that comes to mind”.

However, some of Long-Bailey’s associates on the left of the party have hit out at Sir Keir’s decision.

John McDonnell, the party’s former shadow chancellor under previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: critical of the decision, saying: "Throughout discussion of antisemitism it's always been said criticism of practices of Israeli state is not anti-Semitic.

"I don't believe therefore that this article is or Rebecca Long-Bailey should've been sacked. I stand in solidarity with her."

The Socialist Campaign Group, which includes Corbyn and former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott among its members, has also been opposed to Long-Bailey's sacking.

Following a virtual meeting with Sir Keir over his decision, the group released a statement which read: "It was clear that significant disagreement remains on this point.

"MPs made it clear that Rebecca Long-Bailey should not have been sacked and should be reinstated."

The Labour MPs who participated in the meeting have sought reassurances that any within the party who criticise the Israeli government's conduct will not face suspension.

Sir Keir has resisted the group's calls for Long-Bailey to be reinstated to her position, but confirmed that she will face no further disciplinary action.

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
June 26 2020

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