On Monday, Labour leader Keir Starmer asked Shadow Education Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, to step down, after she shared an article on Twitter that contained an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” relating to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Maxine Peake, an actor and Labour supporter, told the Independent that “the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services”.

Long-Bailey retweeted the article and called Peake, a constituent in Salford and Eccles, “an absolute diamond”. 

Long-Bailey later clarified that her retweet “wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article”.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews this afternoon questioned Long-Bailey’s suitability for the Shadow Education role, calling her clarification “frankly pathetic”.

Long-Bailey, a key ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was first elected as an MP in 2015 and rapidly promoted, serving as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from 2017 and spearheading the party’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ policy for the 2019 general election.

After being asked to step down, Long-Bailey tweeted that Starmer’s office had approved the earlier clarification message but added that “sadly he had already made his decision”, and that she had then been told to remove both the clarification and the original retweet.

A spokesperson for Starmer said: “as Leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority”, adding that the party must remain “vigilant” to all forms of anti-Semitism.

Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, widely seen as Long-Bailey’s political mentor, reacted to the news by tweeting that he stands “in solidarity” with Long-Bailey, rejecting claims that the article was anti-Semitic.

Long-Bailey responded to her sacking – after less than 3 months in the job – by tweeting that “I shall continue to support the Labour Party in Parliament under Keir Starmer’s leadership, to represent the people of Salford and Eccles and work towards a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world”.

The Labour Party’s antisemitism scandal has developed since Jeremy Corbyn won the party’s leadership in 2015. In May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.

Upon winning the race to succeed Corbyn in April, Starmer pledged to “tear out the poison” of anti-Semitism from Labour.

This follows similar comments made by a University of Leeds student at a Rhodes Must Fall protest in Oxford earlier this month, including that “the American police are trained by the Israel oppression army”.

Oliver Shaw

Oliver (he/him) is one of the Editors-in-Chief of The Oxford Blue for the winter vacation and Hilary 2021. Oliver is from Warwickshire and is in his final year studying History at Merton College.