UK Labour leader sacks senior MP for sharing ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’

Keir Starmer announces dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet after Jewish groups condemned her for tweeting an article linking George Floyd’s death to Israel

Keir Starmer, left, and Rebecca Long-Bailey of the UK Labour Party arrive at the cabinet office for Brexit talks in London, April 9, 2019. (Niklas Halle'n/AFP)
Keir Starmer, left, and Rebecca Long-Bailey of the UK Labour Party arrive at the cabinet office for Brexit talks in London, April 9, 2019. (Niklas Halle'n/AFP)

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer on Thursday dismissed a senior lawmaker from the shadow cabinet for praising an interview with an actress who accused Israel of complicity in George Floyd’s killing.

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow education secretary, shared a link on Twitter to an interview in the Independent with actress Maxine Peake, calling her “an absolute diamond.”

In the interview, Peake addressed the recent protests in the US against racism following Floyd’s death in custody at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck.

“Systemic racism is a global issue,” Peake said in the interview. “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

A spokesman for the Israel Police said earlier this month “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

Following a series of condemnations from Jewish groups, a spokesperson for Starmer said he had asked Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet.

“The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. As leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Antisemitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it,” a spokesperson for Starmer told British media.

The decision was welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which earlier called on Long-Bailey to apologize and delete the tweet.

“I would like to thank Keir Starmer for backing his words with actions on anti-Semitism. After Rebecca Long-Bailey shared a conspiracy theory, we and others gave her the opportunity to retract and apologize. To our surprise and dismay, her response was pathetic,” Marie van der Zyl, the group’s president, said in a statement.

She added: “There can be no space for this sort of action in any party and it is right that after so many challenging years Labour is now making this clear under its new leader.”

The group was alluding to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was dogged during his tenure by accusations that he failed to crack down on anti-Semitism in the party’s ranks. He stepped down as Labour leader after the party’s drubbing by the Conservatives in last year’s elections and was replaced by MP Keir Starmer.

Britain’s then opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, passes a glass of water to MP Keir Starmer during their election campaign event on Brexit in Harlow, England, November 5, 2019 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Long-Bailey, a Corbyn ally, finished second to Starmer in the Labour leadership primaries.

The headline of the article she shared was a quote by Peake from the interview saying people who refused to vote for Labour in the last elections because of Corbyn effectively voted for the Conservatives. Peake also said “there’s a lot of people who should hang their heads in shame” for not backing Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.

“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,” Long-Bailey said in response to the Board of Deputies.

Starmer’s decision to boot her from the shadow cabinet was also praised by the Jewish Labour Movement.

“We have consistently maintained that the pervasive culture of anti-Semitism, bullying and intimidation can only be tackled by strong and decisive leadership. The culture and behavior of any organization is determined by the values and behaviors of those who lead them,” the group said in a statement.

Since taking over Labour, Starmer has vowed to root out anti-Semitism from the party, though some Jewish groups have said he was “failing” to crack down on it.

Most Popular
read more: