British opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer fired his education spokeswoman Rebecca Long-Bailey on Thursday after she shared an article online which included a reference to what he called an “antisemitic conspiracy theory.”
The article in question was an interview that claimed Israel had played a role in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Long-Bailey, who came second to Starmer in the race to become Labour leader earlier this year, was a close ally to previous leader Jeremy Corbyn and one of the few remaining links to the party’s hard Left.
“The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an antisemitic conspiracy theory,” 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.”
Under Corbyn, Labour was repeatedly criticized for not doing enough to stamp out antisemitism within the party ranks.
According to the Jewish Telegraph, it’s believed that Starmer was in constant communication with the Jewish Labour Movement since the incident occurred. Jewish Telegraph added that the British Board of Deputies, the leading Jewish umbrella organization in the UK, was the first to call on Starmer to fire Long-Bailey.
In response, the Jewish Labour Movement issued a statement over Twitter, welcoming Starmer’s actions.
“Keir Starmer’s decision to ask Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the front bench should be welcomed,” the movement said, and referenced the antisemitism and bullying practices that many have stated are prevalent within the party.
“We have consistently maintained that the pervasive culture of antisemitism, bullying and intimidation can only be tackled b strong and decisive leadership. The culture of any organization is determined by the values and behaviors of those who lead them. The Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into the Labour Party is soon to report. The Labour Party must be able to implement the kind of cultural and structural changes required to end institutionalized discrimination.
“We hope that the party, at every level, reflect and learn from this action.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl also issued a statement of thanks and support to Starmer for his actions.
“I would like to thank Keir Starmer for backing his words with actions on antisemitism,” she wrote. “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. Her position as shadow education secretary was therefore untenable. There can be no space for this sort of action in any part and it is right that after so many challenging years, Labour is now making this clear under its new leader.”
Van der Zyl had initially been highly critical of Long-Bailey for promoting the article.
In a statement in response, Long-Bailey claimed that by sharing the article on Twitter, she was not endorsing “every part of the article” and that she had issued a clarification after being made aware of people’s concerns.
“I had asked to discuss these matters with Keir before agreeing what further action to take, but sadly he had already made his decision,” she said, adding she would continue to support the party in parliament under Starmer’s leadership.