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Rebecca Long-Bailey sacked from Labour frontbench in row over anti-Semitism

  • Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from Labour frontbench role
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey shared article on social media said to contain 'anti-semitic conspiracy theories'
  • Keir Starmer says tackling anti-semitism in the party is his 'first priority'

 

Official portrait of Rebecca Long-Bailey
Official portrait of Rebecca Long Bailey by Chris McAndrew is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has sacked Salford & Eccles MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, from her position as shadow education secretary, after she shared an interview with actress Maxine Peake containing an “antisemitic conspiracy theory” on Twitter.

Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC, "I've made it my first priority to tackle anti-semitism and rebuilding trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority for me."

In the interview from the Independent, Maxine Peake discussed the death of George Floyd who was killed by police in America last month when an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Peake said: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

The Independent reported that a spokesperson for the Israeli police said this was false, saying “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey shared said interview earlier today on twitter with the caption: ‘Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond’.

 

This tweet resulted in a backlash on Twitter, leading Rebecca Long-Bailey to respond: “I retweeted Maxine Peake’s article because of her significant achievements and because the thrust of her argument is to stay in the Labour Party. It wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article.”

 

The Jewish Labour Movement issued a statement on Twitter regarding the incident, saying that the decision to ask Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the front bench 'should be welcomed'.

 

Owen Jones, a Guardian journalist and strong left-wing voice in the media came on Twitter to support Rebecca Long-Bailey.

 

He then shared a tweet of an article about the claims of US police training Maxine Peake had discussed written by Amnesty International.

 

MP and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, also spoke out on Twitter in solidarity with Rebecca-Long-Bailey.

 

Claims of anti-semitism have heavily dominated discussions of the Labour party and the left over the past few years, as some claim many of the influx of new members were 'vocal critics of Israel and who believe the UK...should be tougher towards Israel, especially regarding its policies towards the Palestinians and its building of settlements in the occupied territories.' 

The BBC reported that former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his supporters' strong support of Palestinian statehood had to lead to attention being brought to 'what activists and elected representatives were saying - and had said in the past - on social media and elsewhere about Israel and Jewish people.'

As a result of this, a number of high-profile suspensions were made such as former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and MP Chris Williamson after claims of anti-semitic comments. 

In May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a formal investigation as to whether the Labour party 'has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish', after receiving a number of complaints. 

Whilst the findings of this investigation are yet to be reported, an internal investigation and response to the EHRC investigation from within the Labour party itself was leaked earlier last month.

The internal document is said to have 'claimed that factional hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn contributed to the party’s ineffective handling of antisemitism complaints and undermined its 2017 election campaign', and includes leaked messages and criticisms of the party.

Sir Keir Starmer has since launched another investigation into why and how this report has been leaked.

Along with Lisa Nandy, Sir Keir Starmer and Rebecca-Long-Bailey were the final candidates in the Labour leadership election which was announced on the 4th April.

When Sir Keir Starmer won his place as Jeremy Corbyn’s successor, he appointed Rebecca-Long-Bailey as Shadow Secretary of State for Education within a few days. 

The cabinet reshuffle was seen as a part of the leader's bid to try to 'end factional fighting' by having a cabinet which is 'balanced between various wings of the party', as Long-Bailey was seen to many to be a 'natural successor to Corbyn', due to the pair's aligned strong socialist views.

After posting a thread of statements to her Twitter account about the retweeting incident, Rebecca Long-Bailey stated: 'I am clear that I shall continue to support the Labour Party in Parliament under Keir Starmer's leadership, to represent the people of Salford and Eccles and work towards a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world.".

 

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