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Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked as shadow education secretary by Labour leader Keir Starmer for sharing an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”.
Long-Bailey was removed from the shadow cabinet on Thursday after she Tweeted an article that included a claim the US police learned the tactics that killed George Floyd from Israel.
In the interview with The Independent, actress Maxine Peake said: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli police told the newspaper: “There is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”
Long-Bailey tweeted the article along with the comment: “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond.”
A spokesperson for Keir Starmer said: “This afternoon Keir Starmer asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet.
“The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic 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.”
In a follow up tweet before she was sacked, Long-Bailey 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.
In a statement afters he was fired, Long-Bailey said the clarification had been agreed with Starmer’s office, but she was then told to delete both tweets.
“Today I retweeted an interview that my constituent and stalwart Labour Party supporter Maxine Peake gave to the Independent. Its main thrust was anger with the Conservative government’s handling of the current emergency and a call for Labour Party unity,” she said.
“These are sentiments are shared by everyone in our movement and millions of people in our country. I learned that 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.
“I wished to acknowledge these concerns and duly issued a clarification of my retweet, with the wording agreed in advance by the Labour Party leader’s Office, but after posting I was subsequently instructed to take both this agreed clarification and my original retweet down.
“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.
“I am proud of the policies we have developed within the party from our green industrial revolution to a national education service and I will never stop working for the change our communities need to see.
“I am clear 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.”
Starmer is expected to appoint a new shadow education secretary in the days ahead.
Mike Katz, the national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said Long-Bailey’s sacking was welcome.
“We have consistently maintained that the pervasive culture of antisemitism, bullying and intimidation can only be tackled by strong and decisive leadership. The culture of any organisation is determined by the values and behaviours of those who lead them,” he said.
“We hope that the Party, at every level, reflect and learn from this action.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is expected to soon publish its report into accusations of ant-Jewish racism in the Labour Party.
Long-Bailey was a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn and flew the flag for the left of the party in the leadership contest when he stood down.
Corbyn’s leadership of Labour was dogged by repeated claims he tolerated anti-Semitism in the party ranks - something he has strongly denied.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, thanked Keir Starmer for his “swift action”.
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.”
But John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, and ally of Long-Bailey, said he wanted to “stand in solidarity with her”
“Throughout discussion of antisemitism it’s always been said criticism of practices of Israeli state is not anti-Semitic,” he said.
And Jon Trickett, a shadow cabinet minister during Corbyn’s time as leader, criticised Starmer’s move.
“What has Sir Keir got against Northern socialists from working class backgrounds?,” he said.