Sir Keir Starmer today faces an insurrection from left-wing MPs who have warned him that he will ‘regret’ sacking Rebecca Long Bailey for sharing an article that contained an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’ blaming Israel for George Floyd’s racist murder.
The new Labour leader is expected to meet with over 12 members of the hard-Left Socialist Campaign Group on the frontbench today to repair relations, after initially refusing to see them.
Ms Long Bailey had shared an article by friend and actress Maxine Peake that made the extraordinary and inaccurate claim that Israeli special forces had trained the officers that murdered George Floyd. The shadow education secretary, who was sacked last night, called her a ‘diamond’ and was fired hours later.
Allies have said that left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are ‘leaving as we speak’ with one former shadow minister close to Jeremy Corbyn telling The Times: ‘It’s a nightmare’. Jon Lansman, who founded the Momentum movement, said there was nothing antisemitic about Ms Peake’s article in the Independent and called the sacking ‘a reckless over-reaction’.
But today President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, praised Si Keir Starmer’s ‘swift’ action and called Rebecca Long Bailey response ‘pathetic’.
She said: ‘This was anti-Semitic because somebody has dreamed up a theory that links Israel to the horrific cold-blooded vile murder of an innocent man. The Israelis had nothing to do with it and there is a group desperate to blame them and Jews for every wrong in the world. I don’t think anybody comes out of this happily – and Rebecca Long Bailey’s response was pathetic’.
She added: ‘Keir Starmer has made a very good start on tackling Anti-Semitism in the party. He has taken decisive action. It is very reassuring to the Jewish community after the Corbyn years of delay, intransigence and prevarication on the issue’.
Corbynistas including Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a shadow environment minister, ex-Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon are ‘very disappointed’ with Sir Keir.
Mr Russell-Moyle did not rule out resigning, while several shadow ministers including Marsha de Cordova, Andy McDonald, Cat Smith and Dan Cardenare are also said to be on ‘resignation watch’.
Sir Keir Starmer has gone to war with allies of Jeremy Corbyn after sacking his former leadership rival Rebecca Long Bailey for sharing an article that contained an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’
Actress Maxine Peake was accused of peddling an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’ yesterday in The Independent
Ex-Shadow Education Secretary Ms Long Bailey was sacked from the frontbench after retweeting a link to the interview
A senior Shadow Cabinet source told The Daily Telegraph that Sir Keir has decided to ‘reset the bar’ after five years of Mr Corbyn’s divisive leadership, adding: ‘It may divide the Labour party but very much increase Keir’s perception as strong and as someone determined to bring about change.’
In a move that enraged John McDonnell and Laura Alvarez, Mr Corbyn’s wife, Sir Keir ousted Ms Long Bailey, then Shadow Education Secretary, after she praised a controversial interview with actress Maxine Peake.
The 45-year-old ‘Shameless’ star told The Independent yesterday that Israeli security forces had taught US police ‘neck-kneeling’ techniques which led to the killing of George Floyd.
Blairites including Lord Mandelson, a chief architect of New Labour, and former Home Secretary Lord Blunkett praised Sir Keir’s boldness in a move interpreted by Corbynistas as a declaration of war.
The row kicked off yesterday after Ms Long Bailey shared a link of the interview Peake – a constituent – gave to The Independent yesterday with the caption ‘absolute diamond’.
Peake, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, also said that the people who had left Labour under Mr Corbyn could ‘hang their heads in shame’ and claimed Sir Keir was an ‘acceptable face’ for people who ‘aren’t really Left wing’.
She later said her comments were ‘inaccurate’, adding that she found anti-Semitism ‘abhorrent’.
Ms Long Bailey was sacked almost immediately after she shared a link to the article on Twitter.
Sir Keir has been desperately trying to rebuild trust with the Jewish community by vowing wipe out the ‘stain’ of anti-Semitism from Labour and rip out the ‘poison’ that dogged the party under his predecessor.
His spokesman 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. Anti-Semitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it.’
Jewish organisations praised Sir Keir’s swift actions, with Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl saying: ‘I would like to thank Keir Starmer for backing his words with actions on anti-Semitism.
Keir Starmer (pictured left with Ms Long Bailey in April) has been trying to rebuild trust with the Jewish community
Tony Blair called Sir Keir a leader who ‘looks as though he could be Prime Minister’, while John McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor, claimed that Peake’s interview had not peddled anti-Semitism
‘After Rebecca Long Bailey shared a conspiracy theory, we and others gave her the opportunity to retract and apologise. To our surprise and dismay, her response was pathetic.
‘Her position as Shadow Education Secretary was therefore untenable.
‘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.’
Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), told MailOnline: ‘We saw significant action from Sir Keir Starmer in ensuring there is zero tolerance for anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.
‘His actions show he understands the severity and harm that anti-Semitic conspiracies do to our politics. We welcome this decisive leadership and firm action.’
Tony Blair called Sir Keir a leader who ‘looks as though he could be Prime Minister’. Lord Mandelson said Sir Keir had shown ‘strong character and judgment’, while Lord Blunkett described the move as a ‘very clear message’.
However, senior Corbynistas denounced the sacking as a ‘reckless overreaction’, with Mr McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor, saying that the article had not peddled anti-Semitism.
Ms Long Bailey described Peake as a ‘diamond’, before trying to clarify she had not been endorsing ‘all aspects of the article’
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell weighed in to insist that Peake’s comment was legitimate criticism of Israel
Lord Blunkett described Sir Keir’s sacking of Ms Long Bailey as a ‘very clear message’ while Diane Abbott is said to be one of several senior Corbynistas who are going to war with Sir Keir
Amid a storm of protest at her initial tweet, Ms Long Bailey then added: ‘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.
‘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 he had already made his decision.’
But it was not enough to avoid being removed from her frontbench role, sparking uproar from her supporters.
She said she posted a further tweet to clarify after learning ‘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,’ she said.
She said after she agree the clarification with Labour leader’s office she was ordered to take both tweets down.
But Sir Keir justified his action telling the BBC: ‘The sharing of that article was wrong, because the article contained anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.’
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish and was a leading critic of Jeremy Corbyn, said: ‘This is what zero tolerance looks like.’ Jewish groups also lined up behind the move
Peake claimed that Israeli spies taught US police tactics that resulted in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis
Calls for BBC to end Maxine Peake’s contract after latest in string of controversy for Corbynista former Shameless star who called for a violent revolution
The BBC was facing calls to end Maxine Peake’s contract after the latest in a string of controversies for the Corbynista Shameless star who has flaunted with Communism and once called for a violent revolution.
Peake, 45, used an interview with The Independent to share an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’ that US police learned ‘neck-kneeling’ restrain techniques used on George Floyd from Israeli spies.
The comments – which led to Rebecca Long Bailey being sacked from Labour’s Shadow Cabinet after she shared the article – are not the first time Peake has aired radical views that have prompted mainstream criticism.
The actress was born in Bolton to a lorry driver father and care worker mother, but her parents separated when she was nine and she lived with her grandparents.
BBC bosses were told to sack Maxine Peake after an interview
Discussing her childhood in an interview with the Guardian, she said her mother aspired to be middle class but found her ambitions threatened, particularly due to her relationships with a series of ‘obnoxious’ men.
Peake said her mother’s experience changed her views, and later in her youth she joined a number of local communist organisations before becoming a member of the Community Party of Great Britain.
Peake is well-known for her strident socialist views and last year became an ambassador for the Morning Star, which she called ‘the only paper I can trust’.
In the same Independent interview in which she aired her views on George Floyd, the star called for the destruction of capitalist and claimed the world was ruled by ‘capitalist, fascist dictators’.
She has frequently railed against the ‘crippling austerity measures’ and in 2017 backed the use of violence to install Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister.
Asked if she wanted a peaceful or a violent revolution, she said: ‘You can’t have a peaceful revolution now. Terrible thing to say. But we need a coup!’
In 2019, she co-signed a letter backing him in the Election, lauding the former Labour leader for his stance against ‘far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism’.
Peake lives in Salford with her partner, the TV art director Pawlo Wintoniuk. She said they ‘never row over politics’ and that she would refuse to have a relationship with someone who was a Conservative or Lib Dem.
Maxine Peake first rose to national attention while playing Twinkle in Dinnerladies, a BBC sitcom that ran from 1998 to 2000. Since then, she is best known for playing Veronica Ball in the hit comedy Shameless, and barrister Martha Costello in legal drama Silk.
Earlier this week she appeared in a revival of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, a role the actress said she accepted ‘straight away’ before ‘spending the next few weeks in a state of high anxiety’.
Mr McDonnell, who endorsed her for leader, later weighed in, saying: ‘Throughout discussion of antisemitism 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 @RLong_Bailey should’ve been sacked. I stand in solidarity with her.’
Momentum founder Jon Lansmann branded the sacking ‘a reckless over-reaction’: ‘I don’t believe there is anything antisemitic in the interview and sacking Rebecca is a reckless overreaction by Keir Starmer.
‘It’s been clearly documented by Amnesty International that many US police departments do train in Israel. The original Independent article even backed up the claim.
‘In the leadership campaign Rebecca signed up to the Board of Deputies pledges and made clear she is committed to tackling antisemitism in our party.
‘More than 135,000 Labour members voted for Rebecca in the leadership election. Keir says he wants to party unity, yet sacks her from the front bench for no good reason. I stand in absolute solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey, as does the rest of Momentum.’
The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said: ‘We have been critical of Sir Keir Starmer’s early handling of incidents within the Labour Party and the fact that he has not yet announced a timetable for reforming the Party’s broken disciplinary process. His swift and firm action in this case appears to indicate that he is taking our comments on board and has shifted up a gear.
‘Sir Keir’s decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey for retweeting an antisemitic conspiracy theory sends a clear message to those in the Labour Party’s ranks who still think that antisemitism is a grey area.’
Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, tweeted: ‘This is what a change in culture looks like. This is what zero tolerance looks like. This is what rebuilding trust with the Jewish community looks like.’
Dame Margaret previously described Sir Keir Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn as racist following claims he had failed to take strong enough action on anti-Semitism within the party.
Labour MP Stella Creasy said: ‘Maxine Peake interview textbook ”casual antisemitism” – Even organisation that first made link she repeats as if matter of record or motivation for heinous crime has withdrawn it as a piece of libellous conspiracism. Being anti racist means countering, not indulging, such tropes.’
In the same interview, Peake, a former member of the Communist Party of Britain in Salford, Ms Long-Bailey’s seat in Manchester, took aim at anyone who refused to vote for Jeremy Corbyn – branding them all Conservative supporters.
She said: ‘Those people who were normally Labour supporters who felt they couldn’t vote Labour? Well I’m sorry, they voted Tory as far as I’m concerned.
‘And it breaks my heart, because you know what? I didn’t like Tony Blair, but I still voted Labour because anything’s better than the Tories.
‘There’s a lot of people who should hang their heads in shame. People going, ‘Oh, I can join the Labour Party again because Keir Starmer’s there,’ well shame on you.’
In 2018 the passionate Labour supporter, an outspoken critic of Tory spending on the NHS, was accused of hypocrisy after pocketing taxpayers’ money to appear in an NHS recruitment advert.
The star of hit TV series including Shameless and Silk was paid to do a voice over on a film as part of the health service’s £8 million ‘We Are The NHS’ campaign.
Funded by NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care, the campaign was launched to coincide with the NHS’s 70th anniversary and features real health workers and patients.
Ms Peake reportedly received a four-figure sum for her contribution. In contrast, in the past celebrities including Nick Hewer and Barbara Windsor have donated their time for free when appearing in publicly-funded health campaigns.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism said it welcome the decision to sack her.
In a statement released on Twitter, co-chairs Catherine McKinnell and Andrew Percy said: ‘We welcome Sir Keir Starmer’s zero tolerance approach and decisive action. Members of Parliament have a duty to challenge anti-Semitic conspiracy theories not share them.
‘We will work with all political parties to ensure anti-Semitism plays no part in public life, and our group will always work to educate colleagues about it.’
The hard-Left candidate for leader who rated Jeremy Corbyn ’10 out of 10′ after he led Labour to general election humiliation
Rebecca Long Bailey was the highest ranking remnant of the Corbyn era still remaining on Labour’s front bench.
The 40-year-old ran against Sir Keir Starmer in the protracted leadership election that followed the party’s election humiliation in December and Mr Corbyn’s subsequent resignation.
But despite the backing of the then senior hierarchy, she trailed in a distant second to Sir Keir, who ran on a platform of healing a divided party.
She was made shadow education secretary in his new-look shadow cabinet as an olive branch to the old regime.
During her leadership election campaign Ms Long-Bailey said Mr Corbyn has been a ‘prefect 10’ as Labour leader
But today’s gaffe, which praised an interview with actress Maxine Peak in which she shared an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’ about Israel and the death of George Floyd, was a step too far.
Mr Starmer has been at pains rebuild bridges with British Jews after five years in which Labour was rocked by a series of anti-Semitism scandals.
Ms Long-Bailey, is the hard-Left daughter of a Salford docker, groomed to take the helm of the Corbynite project by self-declared Marxist John McDonnell.
He and older Corbynistas like Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon threw their weight behind her campaign, during which she described Mr Corbyn as ’10 out of 10′ as leader.
The remark came weeks after he led Labour to its worst election defeat since the 1930s, handing Boris Johnson an 80-seat Tory majority.
She grew up in Old Trafford, Manchester, where she was exposed to left-wing politics from a young age.
The 40-year-old ran against Sir Keir in the leadership election that followed the party’s election humiliation in December
Her father Jimmy worked as a docker at Salford Quays and trade union representative at Shell at a time when workers’ collectives wielded enormous power and threats of staff walkouts struck fear into ministers.
On graduating from a Catholic high school, she worked in a pawn shop – an eye-opening experience which she says taught her ‘more about the struggles of life than any degree or qualification ever could’.
After holding down other jobs such as a call-centre operator, a furniture factory worker and a postwoman, she eventually studied to become a solicitor.
She became Labour MP for Salford in 2015 on the retirement of Hazel Blears and quickly held a series of roles as Mr McDonnell’s political protegee.
She was made shadow business secretary in February 2017, a role she held until Mr Starmer took over in April.