"Sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey was a massive overreaction," says former Labour aide

25 June 2020, 17:47

By Fiona Jones

Shelagh Fogarty debates with former Labour aide Andrew Fisher over whether the Shadow Education Secretary should have been sacked for retweeting an article containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet after she shared an article containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, the party has said.

The former Shadow Education Secretary has been dropped from the front bench after reposting an article on Twitter which claimed the tactic used by US police to kill George Floyd was "taught by the Israeli army".

Former aide to Jeremy Corbyn Andrew Fisher called the sacking of Ms Long-Bailey "a massive overreaction" and condemned Sir Keir Starmer for "poor practice" after Ms Long-Bailey agreed a clarification with his office and was "sacked anyway."

Mr Fisher said the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory was "one sentence" in the article and that it is "very clear Rebecca Long-Bailey was not endorsing that sentence." He thought that Ms Long-Bailey's clarification was the "right response."

Shelagh Fogarty countered that the very recent and distressing history of the Labour party for Jewish people that "an article in which somebody makes the leap from yet another killing of a black man by the police in America to Israel in one fell swoop" is problematic.

Shelagh continued that the Shadow Education Secretary should have to take the medicine of her retweet considering the party has had this recent anti-Semitism, even if it was simply an oversight.

Mr Fisher replied that it seemed odd that despite Ms Long-Bailey agreed and posted the clarification she was still sacked, if her account is to be believed.

"I also think we have to treat people as acting in good faith until we can prove otherwise...I'm pretty sure having known Rebecca Long-Bailey for many years that was not the bit of the article she was trying to highlight," Mr Fisher said, "it's one sentence three-quarters of the way down, she may well actually have not even read that sentence."

Shelagh pointed out that Ms Long-Bailey failed to explicitly say she did not endorse the sentence relating to George Floyd and Israel and instead said: "It wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article."

The former Labour aide reiterated he did not endorse the article's message at all but maintained Rebecca Long-Bailey received unfair treatment in that instance.

In a statement, the Labour party said: "This afternoon Keir Starmer asked Rebecca Long Bailey to step down from the Shadow Cabinet.

"The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

"As leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Antisemitism takes many different forms and it is important that we are all vigilant against it."