LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has been warned he faces a vicious “civil war” from the hard-left Momentum grassroots group and his own backbenchers over the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey before he can even think about reclaiming the party’s crucial “Red Wall”.
Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party crushed Labour in December’s general election, securing a huge 80-seat majority to take firm control of Parliamentary votes and decisions – including Brexit – in the House of Commons. Sir Keir took over on April 4 and immediately vowed to reunite the bickering party and wipe it clean of allegations of anti-Semitism that had dodged the leadership of Mr Corbyn. Sir Keir quickly reshuffled his top team and appeared to have taken steps to root out Labour’s hard-left, and was therefore a surprise when he retained Ms Long-Bailey – a strong ally of Mr Corbyn who was edged out in the Labour leadership contest – on his Shadow Cabinet.
But on Thursday, Sir Keir sensationally sacked his education spokeswoman after she shared an article online which included a reference to what he called an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”.
A spokesperson for Sir Keir said: “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.”
John Macdonald, Head of Government Affairs at the Adam Smith Institute think tank, has thrown his support behind Sir Keir’s decision to sack Ms Long-Bailey, as Labour’s front bench is now “Corbyn-neutral”.
But he warned the Labour leader faces huge hostility from Momentum his own backbenchers, adding he will have to first overcome a bruising “civil war” before he can think about seriously challenging Boris Johnson.
Mr Macdonald told Express.co.uk: “In sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer has begun the Labour Party ritual of squeezing out those who compromise electoral credibility.
“Labours front bench is now Corbyn-neutral.
“But while Sir Keir should see this as an important step towards reshaping Labour into a party that can be trusted to govern, he should not underestimate the hostility he will face from Momentum and a significant portion of his own backbenchers.
“It is entirely possible he will have to fight an internal civil war before he can even begin the climb towards reclaiming the “Red Wall” and overturning Boris Johnsons strong majority.”
Wyn Grant, a British political scientist and professor of politics at the University of Warwick, warned the sacking of Ms Long-Bailey will “enrage” the hardcore left in Labour.
He told this website: “The Labour Party report has been overtaken by the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey, something that would never have happened until Corbyn.
“It has enraged the left of the party, but shows that Starmer is determined to get a grip on it as the appointment of a new general secretary has shown.”
Ms Long-Bailey insisted by sharing the article on Twitter, she was not endorsing “every part of the article” and that she had issued a clarification, which had been agreed with the party, after being made aware of people’s concerns.
She tweeted: “Today I retweeted an interview that my constituent and stalwart Labour Party supporter Maxine Peake gave to the Independent. Its main thrust was anger with the Conservative government’s handling of the current emergency and a call for Labour Party unity.
“These are sentiments are shared by everyone in our movement and millions of people in our country. I learned that many people were concerned by references to international sharing of training and restraint techniques between police and security forces.
“In no way was my retweet an intention to endorse every part of that article.
“I wished to acknowledge these concerns and duly issued a clarification of my retweet, with the wording agreed in advance by the Labour Party leader’s Office, but after posting I was subsequently instructed to take both this agreed clarification and my original retweet down.
“I could not do this in good conscience without the issuing of a press statement of clarification. I had asked to discuss these matters with Keir before agreeing what further action to take, but sadly he had already made his decision.
“I am proud of the policies we have developed within the party from our green industrial revolution to a national education service and I will never stop working for the change our communities need to see.
“I am clear that I shall continue to support the Labour Party in Parliament under Keir Starmer’s leadership, to represent the people of Salford and Eccles and work towards a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world.”