Yesterday’s news that Rebecca Long-Bailey, the Shadow Education Secretary, had been sacked did come as quite a shock when I was sat in my garden enjoying the sun. The dismissal came after Long-Bailey retweeted an interview where actor and Labour supporter Maxine Peake was said to have propagated “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories”. The incident has successfully reignited the party’s anti-Semitism row and threatens further divide among both its members and MPs.
In an interview about her upcoming film, Maxine Peake speaks openly about the need to “get rid of capitalism”, her disdain for those Labour supporters who rejected Corbyn at the ballot box and her shock at the government’s poor handling of the Corona virus pandemic. However, amongst all this, in a short digression about systemic racism, Ms Peake states confidently that:
“The tactics used by police in America, kneeling on George Floyds neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
Ms Peake appears to be making this claim based on an article written in the Morning Star from the 1 of June which states that Minnesota police officers did attend a 2012 conference hosted by the Israeli consulate in Chicago. Although the article does not explicitly state that Israeli forces taught American police to kneel on a person’s neck, it does quote Neta Golan, an activist who claims Israeli soldiers have used the same technique since 2006, a claim refuted by the Israeli police.
With accusations of anti-Semitism plaguing the majority of Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour Party leader it is perhaps unsurprising that Kier Starmer has acted so swiftly, stating that his “first priority” as Leader of the party was to tackle anti-Semitism. Ahead of the report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Starmer will want to be seen as confronting the perception that Labour is an anti-Semitic party.
That being said, the political consequences of Kier Starmer’s decision will likely be long lasting and will run deep into the fabric of the party.
His decision has already re-opened divisions between the socialist and centre left factions of the party, with Ian Lavery MP taking to twitter to plead with members not to leave the party following Long-Bailey’s sacking. For many Long-Bailey embodied the socialist values which Jeremey Corbyn had tried so hard to implement and her place in the cabinet sought to continue that fight, despite a change of leadership.
With Long-Bailey gone it surely marks the end of ‘Corbynism’ and places the fight for socialist values firmly on the back-burner, taking any prospect of party unity along with it.