Rebecca Long-Bailey defenders 'guilty of anti-Semitism' says Griffith

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Image caption Sir Keir Starmer appointed Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary in April

Those condemning Rebecca Long-Bailey's sacking are guilty of anti-Semitism, according to Nia Griffith.

The shadow Welsh secretary spoke after Labour leader Keir Starmer removed Mrs Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet saying she shared an article with an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

It related to Israeli secret services.

A spokesman for Welsh Labour Grassroots said it stood by its decision to defend Mrs Long-Bailey, saying it spoke for "large numbers of party members".

But Llanelli MP Ms Griffith said anyone who cannot accept Sir Keir's zero-tolerance approach should leave the party.

"He (Sir Keir Starmer) said he would deal with anti-Semitism in the party," the Ms Griffith said.

"And we really needed decisive action to do that so when, unfortunately, Rebecca Long-Bailey did what she did on Thursday, and did not respond to the opportunity to apologise, it was absolutely essential.

"And he's had real support throughout the party on that."

Image caption Maxine Peake is known for legal drama Silk, Victoria Wood sitcom Dinnerladies and Channel 4 show Shameless

Mrs Long-Bailey retweeted the article, which was an interview with actor and Labour supporter Maxine Peake, but later the former shadow education secretary said she had not meant to endorse all aspects of it.

When pressed on whether members who have sent messages of support from the left for Mrs Long-Bailey were guilty of anti-Semitism, Ms Griffith said: "Well I think they are and I think they're also in danger of going backwards and going back over old arguments and old mistakes because what we need now is clear, decisive action to make sure that we root out anti-Semitism in the party.

"And so, it's absolutely vital that we do that, not just talk about it.

"So action is really important and they must learn to accept that and I'm sure the majority of them will."

Image caption Nia Griffith was shadow defence secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, with Keir Starmer appointing her shadow Welsh secretary when he took over the leadership

The Welsh Labour Grassroots group put out a statement following Thursday's events, which said criticism of the Israeli Government was not tantamount to anti-Semitism.

Ms Griffith said that was "disappointing and worrying", and that "when people start making blanket assumptions or blanket criticisms that is very often the basis of anti-Semitism or racism".

She added: "That's completely different from making a specific comment about a specific policy about a specific government."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey came second to Keir Starmer in the Labour leadership contest

On the question of what should happen to members who agreed with Mrs Long-Bailey, Ms Griffith said: "Well it is going to be a long process and I think starting off by making it absolutely clear we have zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in the party is step one, but quite clearly there is work to be done.

"And I hope very much that we will be able to take people with us.

"And if there are a few that can't come with us well they'll have to leave."

'Draconian intolerance'

A spokesman for Welsh Labour Grassroots - which represents the party's left and centre-left - said: "It is sad to see someone like Nia, who was once a member of Welsh Labour Grassroots herself, saying that those of us who have defended Rebecca Long-Bailey are ourselves guilty of anti-Semitism.

"Anti-Semitism is abhorrent and the party has rightly taken robust action to root it out.

"Not everyone accused of anti-Semitism is demonstrably guilty, however, and there has to be scope for debate over whether certain statements, which are not explicitly aimed at Jewish people, suggest an anti-Semitic worldview.

"To claim otherwise reflects a draconian intolerance that goes against Labour's best traditions."

Standing by its defence of both Mrs Long-Bailey and Maxine Peake, he added this was "in tune with the thinking of many Jewish people who have spoken out against the leadership's decision".