Skip to main content

Why was Rebecca Long Bailey sacked?

ANDREW WARDEN asks what are the reasons for the Salford MP being pushed off the shadow front bench

WAS Rebecca Long Bailey sacked to prevent a bad news day? This is plausible. 

Keir Starmer has demonstrated an alarming willingness to prioritise short-term news management tactics over long-term strategy. 

The other day he had his front-bench talk up 10-year sentences for vandalising statues because the press were demanding it. 

If so, this is absurd on its own terms; on the Conservative side Robert Jenrick was having a dreadful day, being shown to be colluding with property developers to cheat a working-class area of millions in a classic Tory class war story. 

The sacking pivoted the news right back to Labour. The Tories, of course, stuck by Jenrick. 

Whereas throwing people under buses sometimes seems to pass for “good tactics” in Labour, Tories across factions do not know solidarity but in cases like those of Jenrick or Dominic Cummings, know that the appearance of unity and discipline is vital. It is part of the reason they are good at winning.

Was Long Bailey sacked because what she did was unacceptable? 

She shared a wide-ranging interview with fellow successful northern working-class left-wing woman Maxine Peake, the thrust of which was essentially “voting Labour is good.” 

In it, Peake recycled a claim made in another story that US police learned neck-kneeling from their Israeli counterparts. 

This could be misleading — it is based on an allegation from a Palestine activist that she has observed these tactics, a 2012 conference between the Israeli consulate and the Minnesota police, and the fact of routine US-Israel defence and security collaboration. 

If this story is incorrect than it is not Peake’s fault for referring to it or Long Bailey’s for sharing the interview. 

The suggestion that either of them blame Israel for the death of George Floyd is ridiculous and not supported by their words. 

Long Bailey, while of course she cares about Palestine, is not known for campaigning on the issue in the way that Jeremy Corbyn is and is much more comfortable with domestic industrial policy.

But of course this is not the actual issue — the Parliamentary Labour Party includes those who consort with professional Islamophobes, those who defended dog-whistle racist campaigning in 2005, 2010 and 2015, those who poured vitriol on Travellers, and so on. 

Maybe they are tougher on alleged anti-semitism specifically? If so, they appear to have missed frontbencher Rachel Reeves enthusiastically praising Nazi sympathiser Nancy Astor.

Was Long Bailey sacked because of the substance of Peake’s criticism of Israel? 

This is a reach. The welfare of the Israeli state is not particularly close to Starmer’s heart, and those who assume it is often stray into the actual anti-semitism of “Labour is controlled by zionists” type conspiracies. 

Regardless, the substantive outcome of her sacking is to chill discussion of the very real collaboration between advanced armies and police forces on a globalised repression industry, and the special role of Israel with its specialist technology industry and dedicated testbed for its technologies in Palestine. 

Palestinian territories will likely be annexed later this week and it seems unlikely that the Labour Party will do much to resist it.

Was Long Bailey sacked because of her stance on coronavirus? A range of sources close to the front bench have indicated this. 

It is no secret that her stance was causing tensions. She has been a rare figure in front-line politics in standing with teaching unions against the rush back to work — in which schools play a vital role in absorbing childcare. 

Tories who have never shown the slightest inclination of supporting working-class children have been trolling her with supposed concern for disadvantaged children missing out on education. 

Rather than thinking that teaching staff may actually want to return to work, but have real operational concerns about safety, Labour has largely seen them as a blockage as well. 

This is in the midst of a lethal pandemic in which this country has been among the worst hit, with tens of thousands of deaths.

Was Long Bailey sacked in a strike against the left? It would be typical of the Labour Party that grand challenges like coronavirus and the Israel-Palestine conflict would be pressed into the service of cheap factional politics. 

Starmer’s team were certainly eager to brief journalists that they were refusing to meet with the Socialist Campaign Group — who at that point had not even requested a meeting.

Getting rid of a leadership rival and the most senior leftwinger in the shadow cabinet brings the party closer to the total control of the leader’s office in a way that Corbyn barely had in his opponents’ most paranoid fantasies. 

And the net effect of Long Bailey’s sacking will be the departure of members in huge numbers, which is what one wants if mass membership is considered largely a hindrance and there are national executive committee elections coming up.

Long Bailey was sacked for a combination of reasons, but the timing and method indicates that the leadership were looking for a reason. 

In which case, the reason is simply because they could. The Labour left is losing itself in an increasingly fractious Momentum leadership contest and appears to lack a serious strategy for organising during the virus-induced recession that is coming. 

They are a soft target. And in the absence of healthy internal opposition, the party is returning to an entropy governed by the force that used to hold it together — blind control freakery.

OWNED BY OUR READERS

We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 10,322
We need:£ 7,678
8 Days remaining
Donate today