Right to sack Long-Bailey?

The Labour leader sacked his closest leadership rival


Rebecca Long-Bailey should have been more careful – but her error seems minor compared to others

In yesterday’s editorial, you wrote that Rebecca Long-Bailey was guilty of retweeting a plain antisemitic conspiracy theory. Call me naive, but I really don’t understand how mentioning tactics learned from seminars with Israeli secret services (whether arguably true or categorically false or somewhere in between) can be interpreted as antisemitic.

If we criticise the tactics of the police or secret service in any country, will we be classed anti-Episcopalian, anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, anti-Hindu, or anti-Muslim?

Being critical of the Israelis in their approach to the Palestinian people and the term antisemitism are not the same thing. As someone with an Italian-Jewish surname, albeit an atheist, I am sick and tired of this lack of distinction.

Yes, Rebecca Long-Bailey should have exercised more care before retweeting, but compared to the likes of Cummings, Jenrick, Johnson, Hancock and so on, her error is a minor one.

Perhaps all politicians – worldwide – should be banned from Twitter. It is full of ignominious and debasing drivel.

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Was Sir Keir Starmer right to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey?

By Joe Harker

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer caused a stir when he sacked shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, his primary rival for the party leadership and seen as the leader of the pro-Corbyn faction.

Long-Bailey shared an article which featured an interview with the actor Maxine Peake where she said police linked with the death of George Floyd had learned their neck kneeling tactics from Israel.

Peake apologised for making "incorrect assumptions" with her claim, which was accused of containing an anti-semitic element.

Starmer had asked Long-Bailey to delete her tweet which shared the interview with Peake, describing the actor as an "absolute diamond", but the shadow education secretary did not, and found herself gone from the shadow cabinet.

Was the Labour leader right to sack Long-Bailey, or did he make a mistake?

The Claim:

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said Starmer was right to sack Long-Bailey, saying it was a demonstration that the party was getting serious on tackling anti-semitism.

He said Long-Bailey had made a "significant error of judgment" and by not following her leader's instruction to delete the tweet sharing the Peake interview she had missed her chance not to be sacked.

If you do something bad enough for your party leader to order you into a reversal and don't follow their instructions then it's hard to argue you shouldn't be sacked. Starmer can't have a shadow cabinet member ignore one of his orders without punishment.

From a more cynical perspective, it looks like the Labour leader has booted the "Corbyn continuity candidate" out of his shadow cabinet and cemented that the party is under his control.

The left wing of an already left wing party used to run the party and perhaps hoped they would still have a strong influence on Labour even if it was Starmer in the leader's role, instead they have been increasingly moved to the side and shown the influence they wielded under Corbyn is gone.

The Counter Claim:

Some have stepped up to defend Long-Bailey and criticise Starmer, with fingers pointed at the Labour leader carrying the accusation that the shadow education secretary was sacked for less than others have done.

Figures on the left wing of Labour have criticised their new leader for getting rid of Long-Bailey, with MPs including Corbyn and his former shadow chancellor John McDonnell expressing their concerns.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, called Starmer's decision "an unnecessary over-reaction to a confected row" and claimed it would threaten the unity of the Labour party.

It was always likely that the left wing of the Labour party was going to hit out at Starmer's leadership at some point.

Starmer is standing by his decision and has already picked a replacement, so for now it looks like Long-Bailey will be on the backbenches.

The Facts:

Polling from YouGov indicates more people think Starmer got it right than wrong, with 47 per cent siding with the Labour leader and just 12 per cent saying he made the wrong call, the remaining 41 per cent falling into the "don't know" category.

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The Guardian

Ed Miliband: Starmer was right to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey

Ed Miliband has become the latest senior shadow cabinet figure to back the firing of Rebecca Long-Bailey from Labour’s frontbench for sharing what he deemed to be an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, sacked his shadow education secretary and Jeremy Corbyn supporter after she commented on an interview with the actor Maxine Peake. Following the death of George Floyd, Peake claimed Israeli forces had taught Americans how to restrain people with a knee on the neck.

Long-Bailey’s sacking has ignited a vicious online row within the party. The general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, said it was an overreaction in a “confected row” and risked disuniting the party.

The Momentum campaign group boss, Jon Lansman, who is Jewish, said he did not believe the remark by Peake was antisemitic. Peake later said she was sorry for being inaccurate. Long-Bailey, who ran as Corbyn’s heir in the leadership election, said she had not endorsed all parts of the article and had shared it because it was about the Tory response to coronavirus.

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