UK Labour leader fires lawmaker over 'anti-Semitic' tweet

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 file photo, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Britain's Shadow Business secretary speaks on stage during the Labour Party Conference at the Brighton Centre in Brighton, England. The leader of Britains main opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer on Thursday June 25, 2020, fired lawmaker Rebecca Long-Bailey from a top party job for sharing an article on social media containing what Starmer called an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. Starmer says he has asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to stop down as party education spokeswoman. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)

LONDON – The leader of Britain's main opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, on Thursday fired a lawmaker from a top party job for sharing an article on social media containing what Starmer called “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.”

Starmer said he had asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to resign as party education spokeswoman.

Earlier, Long-Bailey tweeted a link to a newspaper interview with actress Maxine Peake, calling the actress “an absolute diamond.”

In the interview with The Independent, Peake called systemic racism a global issue, and said “the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd's neck" had been learned from seminars with Israeli secret services.

Labour said in a statement that “the article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an anti-Semitic 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 all are vigilant against it," he added.

Starmer beat Long-Bailey in an election to become Labour leader in April. He is trying to steer the party back towards the center ground after the divisive tenure of his left-wing predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn also faced allegations that he had allowed anti-Semitism to fester in the party. He is a longtime supporter of the Palestinians and a critic of Israel.

Starmer has called anti-Semitism "a stain on our party.”

Long-Bailey said she had shared the article because of Peake’s “significant achievements" and backing for Labour, adding that “it wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article.”