Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey fired in anti-Semitism row

Keir Starmer has fired Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary after she tweeted praise for an interview in which actor Maxine Peake said the US police tactic of kneeling on someone’s neck was taught by the Israeli secret service.

Long-Bailey, who was beaten to the party leadership by Sir Keir - later said she had not meant to endorse all aspects of the article.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews had condemned Long-Bailey’s actions and called for her to delete the tweet and apologise.

Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies, had criticised Long-Bailey’s decision to not delete the first tweet, saying: “As someone who aspires to be the next education secretary, we would expect her to read and understand materials before sharing them. If she is incapable of doing this, it raises serious and immediate questions about her suitability for the role.

Sir Keir said his "first priority" was tackling anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader said: "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.

Long-Bailey said her initial clarification had been made in “wording agreed in advance by the Labour party leader’s office”, but that Starmer’s team then instructed her to delete both her original tweet and the update.

She said: “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.”

She added: “I am clear that I shall continue to support the Labour party in parliament under Keir Starmer’s leadership.”

A spokesman for the Labour leader added: "Anti-Semitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it."

In the article, Ms Peake discussed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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."

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who supported her leadership bid, said: "Throughout discussion of anti-Semitism it's always been said criticism of practices of Israeli state is not anti-Semitic.

"I don't believe therefore that this article is or Rebecca Long-Bailey should've been sacked. I stand in solidarity with her."

Mrs Long-Bailey became a Labour MP in 2015. She was a supporter of former leader Jeremy Corbyn and was quickly promoted to his frontbench team, serving as shadow chief secretary of the Treasury and later shadow business secretary.

Following Labour's defeat in the 2019 election, Mrs Long-Bailey entered the leadership contest to replace Mr Corbyn and was supported by many on the left of the party.

She came second in the contest securing 26.6% of the vote, while Sir Keir won 56.2%.