Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party has removed shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey from office after she promoted an interview containing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories relating to the death of George Floyd.
Long-Bailey was a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn throughout his time as Labour leader. Corbyn incidentally was one of the biggest figures in the Labour party accused of anti-Semitic behaviour. It was often Corbyn and his close supporters that were seen as the problem, and the only way to lift accusations from the party and try to regain the trust of the Jewish community was to remove those directly accused.
After Corbyn stood down following Labour’s shocking general election result, the Labour leadership contest was triggered and all three of the final candidates including both Long-Bailey and Starmer ran campaign messages that included tackling the issues of Anti-Semitism. Starmer took a much clearer sense on the issue, threatening to ‘tear out the problem root and stem’. This pitch seemed to resonate the best with the Labour membership who elected him with 56.2 per cent of the vote in the first round.
Long-Bailey was probably given the position of shadow education secretary by Starmer as a way to attempt to try and unite the various factions of the party. This is a pretty standard move after a leadership contest. Realistically though, Starmer will have not wanted Long-Bailey close by and this situation will have been a good pretext to remove her. The party can be seen to be making good moves in the right direction by openly tackling the issue.
This move by the Labour leader will also likely improve how he is perceived by others. Starmer has shown assertiveness and committent in carrying out a campaign promise — something which should please the membership as well as the wider electorate. The move stands especially favourably after the lax approach that we saw from Boris Johnson in dealing with Dominic Cummings and other members of his party seen to break lockdown rules. There’s a lot of ground for Labour to make up before the next general election and every step in the right direction is a start. Currently, polling puts Johnson ahead of Starmer by between 10 and 15 points depending on the week in which you look at. There’s plenty of time between now and 2024 though, and things can change quickly in the world of politics.
There has been a small backlash from the left of Labour calling for Long-Bailey’s reinstatement, and there’s some small risk of more division occurring within the party as a result; but realistically the division is already there and the left knows that. They can’t afford to be split if they want to get back into power. Starmer has to be seen as the uniting force capable of mending the cracks produced following years of Corbynism.
It’s clear from that 2019 election result that the British electorate no longer want a more left-wing Labour Party in charge of the country. The best thing for Labour to do now would be to accept this loss of influence in the shadow cabinet and move on.
Long-Bailey was sacked for a reason that had been plaguing the party for years. Continuing to hide or delay tackling anti-Semitism will only make it linger and undermine the party’s chances in 2024. A tough line is what is needed here for the rebuilding of an effective opposition to the Conservatives, and one that has arguably been shown.
There is no place for anti-Semitism within politics or within the wider world. If MPs, councillors and general members of the Labour party cannot see the issue with this, then it is about time they stood aside for someone who can. Even if they don’t do this for the sake of their own self-improvement, they should at least do it for the party they care about.
Image By Rwendland — Own work, CC