Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet after sharing an article from a Jeremy Corbyn supporter which contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
Long-Bailey, the former shadow education secretary, tweeted praise of an interview with Maxine Peake in which the actress said the police tactic of kneeling on someone’s neck, which killed George Floyd, was ‘learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services’.
Tweeting a link to the Independent interview with the Corbyn supporter, she wrote: ‘Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond’.
After criticism, she later wrote: ‘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.’
Her comments were criticised by the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, who called for an apology.
She said: ‘As soon as we saw that Rebecca Long-Bailey had shared this we wrote to her detailing how this conspiracy theory is false and requesting she delete her tweet and issue an apology. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s response is frankly pathetic. 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.’
In the article Peake said that Starmer was ‘a more acceptable face of the Labour party for a lot of people who are not really leftwing’, but she added: ‘As long as the Tories get out, I don’t care anymore.’
A spokesman for Starmer said that the Labour leader had asked the former leadership candidate to resign within a matter of hours of the tweet.
He 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.’
Jonathan Goldstein, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: ‘Today 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.’