Sir Keir Starmer is facing a brutal hard-left backlash from Labour Party supporters, following his decision to fire Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary. Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, criticised the Labour leader’s handling of the issue, amid fears the decision will plunge the left-wing party into bitter rows and crisis talks. Ms Long-Bailey was fired this week for apparent anti-Semitism on social media.
The former leadership candidate shared what Sir Keir branded an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” on her personal Twitter account.
The dismissal of Sir Keir’s former leadership rival has infuriated allies of Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Livingstone quit the Labour Party himself in 2018 following allegations of anti-Semitism.
He told Andrew Castle on LBC that there isn’t an underlying issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
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Mr Livingstone argued that the Labour Party is the party of the “most prominent” Jewish politicians in the UK and is not systematically anti-Semitic.
He explained: “She read that, didn’t realise it wasn’t true, made a mistake, but that isn’t to say she’s anti-Semitic.
“Anti-Semitism is about hating Jews. Making a mistake about politics or getting a sentence wrong doesn’t mean you’re anti-Semitic.
Castle pointed out that when Sir Keir took over the leadership of Labour he vowed to tear out anti-Semitism “by its roots, adding: “He wouldn’t have said that unless there was a problem, would he?”
Mr Livingstone responded: “Although I don’t agree with the way Keir’s handled this, I have total confidence in his leadership. He comes across as someone who could be an incredibly impressive Prime Minister.”
Sir Keir’s decision, which he has since stood by, was denounced by former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s wife.
The controversy first arose when Ms Long-Bailey shared an interview with actress Maxine Peake, in which she 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 senior shadow cabinet source said that the decision would lead to the “Corbyn left uniting against Keir” but insisted it was necessary to “reset the bar” after five years of Mr Corbyn’s leadership.