In the past few minutes, Owen Smith has been sacked from Labour’s Shadow Cabinet after he wrote an article calling for a second referendum and continuing single market membership.
The party this evening released a statement from Jeremy Corbyn which did not thank Smith for his work but instead praised the record of his successor as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Tony Lloyd:
‘Tony is a highly experienced former Government Minister who is committed to ensuring that peace in Northern Ireland is maintained and helping to steer the devolution deal back on track.’
This is an interesting time of the day to put out a statement about a sacking. It’s also interesting given there is another, much more serious row going on in Labour today about a photo of an anti-Semitic mural that Jeremy Corbyn commented approvingly on:
I asked the Leader’s Office for an explanation about this Facebook post first thing this morning. I’m still waiting for a response. pic.twitter.com/DL8ynBtES4
— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) March 23, 2018
Labour MPs who have been campaigning against anti-Semitism including Wes Streeting have been pointing out that Smith was dispatched for an article that he wrote in today’s Guardian, but that the response from the leader’s office to Berger’s complaint has been rather less decisive, with a statement released this afternoon saying ‘In 2012, Jeremy was responding to concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of freedom of speech. However, the mural was offensive, used antisemitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed’.
This issue could end up being far more damaging to the Labour Party than one Shadow Cabinet sacking. I understand that emotions among some MPs are running very high as they feel the leadership has persistently refused to take anti-Semitism seriously.