By Hallum Cowell
Labour leader Kier Starmer has decided to remove Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet following a tweet, in which she linked an article containing antisemitic remarks. The article, which was an interview with actress Maxine Peake for The Independent, was tweeted by Long-Bailey on Thursday.
The article, which largely consisted of the actor and activist criticising the Conservative party included comments on the issue of systematic racism in which she claims;
“the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
The claim is one which a spokesperson from the Israeli police has since denied.
In her original tweet, which was published on June 25, Rebecca Long-Bailey she captioned the tweet and its article with “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond”.
2 hours later as criticism grew, especially from Jewish groups who demanded she delete the tweet and apologise, she responded, saying:
“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.”.
Maxine Peake also later quoted the Israeli police response to her interview in a tweet, stating,
“There is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.” And that she had been “inaccurate in my assumption”.
Rebecca Long-Bailey was a candidate for Labour Leader back in April but was beaten to leadership by Keir Starmer. Long-Bailey was also a staunch ally of former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and many critics have suggested she is a figurehead of some socialist factions within the Labour party. Starmer’s leadership, however, is considered to represent a more Blair-like, centrist faction within the Labour party.
Long-Bailey’s dismissal is seen by some as a beginning of a purge of the more radical elements of the Labour party from high ranking positions. The Labour leader made it clear at the beginning of his leadership that he wanted to heal division within the party.
In response to the news of Long-Bailey’s dismissal, Keir Starmer today said;
“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.”
Starmer also noted,
“The sharing of that article was wrong… because the article contained anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and I have therefore stood Rebecca Long-Bailey down from the shadow cabinet”.
In an interview, the Labour leader clarified his position stating,
“I didn’t [remove Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet] because she is antisemitic, I did it because she shared the article which has got, in my view, antisemitic conspiracy theories in it.”
The co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism and various Jewish groups have shown their support of Keir Starmer’s decision.
Various supporters of former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have extended their support to Rebecca Long-Bailey, with former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell using Twitter to express;
“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”.
The Labour party has, for years, faced allegations of antisemitism, including allegations for some of its own party members. Attempts to resolve the issue by Labour has often been dogged with critique.
Time will tell whether this is the beginning of a wider split emerging between the factions of the Labour party or whether Starmer can succeed in uniting his party behind him.