U.K. Labour Divided Again as Official Sacked Over Anti-Semitism
(Bloomberg) -- Labour leader Keir Starmer held talks with key left-wingers in his party Friday after he sacked his education spokeswoman over antisemitism, re-opening divisions that have severely damaged the main U.K. opposition in recent years.
Starmer met members of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour lawmakers -- which includes former leader Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell -- following Rebecca Long-Bailey’s dismissal a day earlier for praising an article linking U.S. police violence to training by Israeli security services.
“The Socialist Campaign Group of MPs made it clear that Rebecca Long-Bailey should not have been sacked and should be re-instated,” the group said in a statement posted on twitter after the talks. “It was clear that significant disagreement remains on this point.”
Starmer’s office declined to comment because the meeting was private.
The re-emergence of divisions that contributed to Labour’s crushing election defeat to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in December comes as Starmer tries to transform the party into a contender for power. His performances at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions have earned the former barrister praise, even from some Tory politicians.
Under Corbyn, Labour was regularly criticized for its record on antisemitism, and Starmer has prioritized rebuilding relations with the Jewish community.
Starmer’s inclusion of Long-Bailey, his main rival in the leadership contest, in Labour’s top team appeared to be a peace offering to its left-wing base.
But with her dismissal, any goodwill appears to have evaporated. Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, said Starmer’s actions have damaged the party, while Abbott and McDonnell promoted a petition for Long-Bailey to be reinstated, which quickly gathered more than 10,000 signatures.
“Divided parties do not win elections,” Lansman told the BBC on Friday. “To unite the party he’s got to build trust, across the party, trust from the left.”
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