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Starmer rejects socialist MPs' calls for him to reinstate Rebecca Long Bailey

SIR KEIR STARMER rejected a request by socialist Labour MPs yesterday to reinstate Rebecca Long Bailey as shadow education secretary.

During a video conference call with members of the Socialist Campaign Group, which includes former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, MPs asked Mr Starmer to reconsider his decision to sack her.

Mr Starmer fired the Salford and Eccles MP from his front bench on Thursday for sharing an article that mentioned Israeli training of US police.

Ms Long Bailey had tweeted a link to the Independent’s interview with actor Maxine Peake with the message: “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond.”

In the wide-ranging discussion, Ms Peake had said that the kneeling on the neck of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis was a tactic “learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

The leader’s spokesman said the sacking was for sharing an article that “contained an anti-semitic conspiracy theory.”

Ms Peake has since clarified that there is no evidence the kneel-on-neck method formed part of Israeli training of US police. That Israeli officers do provide training for US police forces, including in Minnesota, is a matter of public record, and Amnesty International has noted that “many of the abuses [by US police] documented parallel violations by Israeli military, security and police officials.”

There is photographic evidence that Israeli forces use the knee-on-neck tactic.

The Socialist Campaign Group’s request for a meeting over the sacking was initially reported to have been declined.

But following the meeting yesterday, the MPs said that “significant disagreement” on the decision remained.

According to a statement, they also stressed the need for Labour to strongly oppose Israel’s annexation plans and raised concerns about the response to allegations, made in a leaked report, that Labour HQ worked to sabotage the 2017 general election and that black MPs were poorly treated.

“This was a business-like exchange of views which took place in a mutually respectful manner,” the statement added.

The Labour leader’s office declined to comment on the talks, saying they had been private.

The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors described the sacking as “wholly unjustified,” adding that “it is not racist to criticise the repressive actions of states, nor to point out the links between repressive authorities.”

It also said that Mr Starmer’s actions cast doubt over his claims, made while he was running against Ms Long Bailey for the leadership earlier this year, to “be against factionalism and for party unity.”

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell urged people to sign a petition that calls for Mr Starmer to reinstate Ms Long Bailey.

The petition, which had nearly 13,000 signatures as of yesterday afternoon, can be found at https://bit.ly/2NwB0Q3.

Many others took to Twitter to defend Ms Long Bailey, including Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana, who said: “From her excellent work on the green industrial revolution to holding the government to account on its shambolic plans for reopening schools, I’m disappointed that Rebecca Long-Bailey has been removed from her shadow cabinet role. Solidarity @RLong_Bailey.”

Education campaigner Melissa Benn tweeted: “For the record, from the minute she took on the education brief @RLong_Bailey worked incredibly hard behind the scenes to master the complexities of our system, link up to a wide range of groups, across the political spectrum. She was a listener, and anything but factional.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey tweeted: “Sacking @RLong_Bailey is an unnecessary over-reaction to a confected row. Unity is too important to be risked like this.”

CWU general secretary Dave Ward tweeted: “Shoddy sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey is misjudged and simply not justified. Another nail in the coffin of Labour’s working-class credentials and Keir Starmer’s promise of unity.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “I’ll be on @BBCNewsnight later talking about the unjust dismissal of @RLong_Bailey. It’s an attack on the left, on r&f party members and union affiliates.”

And BFAWU president Ian Hodson tweeted: “The move by @Keir_Starmer on the day the extreme right wing of the party launch is to force you out so they can win the NEC election. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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