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'
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.
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’.
Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond https://t.co/uzxPEm8VkI— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) June 25, 2020
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.”
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. https://t.co/3k6P3hcCgJ— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) June 25, 2020
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'.
Jewish Labour Movement statement in response to Rebecca Long-Bailey’s resignation.— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) June 25, 2020
The culture of an organisation is determined by the values of those who lead it.
We welcome Keir Starmer’s actions and hope that the Party, at every level, reflect and learn from this. pic.twitter.com/7M2SDjobEv
Owen Jones, a Guardian journalist and strong left-wing voice in the media came on Twitter to support Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey for sharing an interview in *the Independent* with one of Britain's most celebrated actors because of a sentence uttered by Maxine Peake which the Independent initially justified with a link to an Amnesty International report is an absurd overreaction— Owen Jones says join a union (@OwenJones84) June 25, 2020
He then shared a tweet of an article about the claims of US police training Maxine Peake had discussed written by Amnesty International.
The US police don't need to learn their brutality from Israel or anyone else. It's also true that the US and Israeli polices and militaries share tactics as @amnestyusa explored.— Owen Jones says join a union (@OwenJones84) June 25, 2020
Does that need nuanced discussion? Yes. That doesn't justify this move. https://t.co/HcgZApLVu0
MP and former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, also spoke out on Twitter in solidarity with Rebecca-Long-Bailey.
Throughout discussion of antisemitism it’s always been said criticism of practices of Israeli state is not antisemitic. I don’t believe therefore that this article is or @RLong_Bailey should’ve been sacked. I stand in solidarity with her https://t.co/rhxuKGfFEG— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) June 25, 2020
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.".