New British Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, April 5, 2020
British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Photo: AP
British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

UK Labour leader fires shadow minister over anti-Semitic conspiracy theory

Long-Bailey sacked for sharing interview with actress who claimed George Floyd's killers learned tactics from Israelis; 'Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority,' says Starmer spokesman

Sara Miller |
Published: 06.25.20 , 17:52
The head of the British Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, on Thursday sacked a member of his shadow cabinet for sharing an article in which an actress known for her support of Jeremy Corbyn claimed the U.S. police officers who killed George Floyd were using methods acquired in Israel.
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  • "This afternoon Keir Starmer asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet," the Labour leader's spokesman said.
    New British Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, April 5, 2020 New British Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, April 5, 2020
    British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
    (Photo: AP)
    "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," he said.
    "The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services," Maxine Peake told The Independent newspaper in an article published earlier Thursday.
    The paper added a comment from Israel Police that rejected the claim, saying that “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway."
    The interview drew widespread criticism from British Jews, who have long expressed alarm at the rise in anti-Semitism in Labour under Corbyn's leadership.
    But Long-Bailey, who was shadow education minister before her dismissal, tweeted the Peake interview with the comment, "Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond."
    Rebecca Long-Bailey tweet Starmer anti-Semitism Maxine Peake Labour Rebecca Long-Bailey tweet Starmer anti-Semitism Maxine Peake Labour
    Rebecca Long-Bailey's tweet
    (Photo: Screenshot/Twitter)
    Long-Bailey's dismissal was welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which thanked Starmer for taking action.
    "After Rebecca Long-Bailey shared a conspiracy theory, we and others gave her the opportunity to retract and apologize. To our surprise and dismay, her response was pathetic,” said BoD President Marie van der Zyl.
    "[I]t is right that after so many challenging years Labour is now making this clear under its new leader," she said.
    Starmer replaced Corbyn as Labour leader in April, after the latter led the party to two successive general elections defeats. The new leader vowed to make dealing with the party's institutional anti-Semitism one of his top priorities.
    Corbyn, a far-left London MP and veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, drew repeated criticism for Labour's refusal to tackle the phenomenon. The party is currently being investigated for anti-Semitism by the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission. Starmer has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

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