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Wed, 25 November 2020

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Keir Starmer sacks Rebecca Long-Bailey after she shares 'antisemitic conspiracy theory'

Keir Starmer sacks Rebecca Long-Bailey after she shares 'antisemitic conspiracy theory'

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked from her role

3 min read

Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked as shadow education secretary for sharing an "antisemitic conspiracy theory".

Keir Starmer ordered Ms Long-Bailey out of his shadow cabinet after she endorsed an interview with actor Maxine Peake in which she claimed US police had been trained to kneel on people's necks by Israeli authorities.

But Ms Long-Bailey said "in no way" was her tweet a show of support for all the views in the article - and claimed that Sir Keir had refused to meet with her to discuss her response before sacking her.

In an interview with The Independent, Ms Peake, who was a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, said the police had learned the controversial tactic in "seminars" carried out in Israel.

She 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 article had initially said the claim was supported by Amnesty International.

But it was subsequently clarified to say that the charity had raised concerns about the wider policy and that there was no evidence this training included the neck-kneeling tactic.

Ms Long-Bailey had initially tweeted her support for the piece, saying "Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond".

Describing the claim as an "antisemitic conspiracy theory", a spokesperson for the Labour leader said Ms Long-Bailey had been asked to step down from her role.

"This afternoon Keir Starmer asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the Shadow Cabinet," they said.

"The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an antisemitic 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.”

'IN GOOD CONSCIENCE'

Responding to her sacking in a series of tweets, Ms Long-Bailey said she had tweeted the article because its "main thrust" was anger at the Government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a call for unity within her party.

"These are sentiments are shared by everyone in our movement and millions of people in our country.

The former leadership contender added: "I learned that many people were concerned by references to international sharing of training and restraint techniques between police and security forces.

"In no way was my retweet an intention to endorse every part of that article."

And she said: "I wished to acknowledge these concerns and duly issued a clarification of my retweet, with the wording agreed in advance by the Labour Party Leader’s Office, but after posting I was subsequently instructed to take both this agreed clarification and my original retweet down."

She added: "I could not do this in good conscience without the issuing of a press statement of clarification.

"I had asked to discuss these matters with Keir before agreeing what further action to take, but sadly he had already made his decision."

Her comments had provoked a backlash from campaign groups who demanded Sir Keir take swift action against the shadow minister.

Euan Philipps, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “Rebecca Long-Bailey’s decision to promote an interview in which the actor Maxine Peake made an apparently antisemitic statement, and her later response following widespread condemnation, is unacceptable."

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