Keir Starmer is due to meet members of the Socialist Campaign Group on Friday amid a left-wing backlash over his decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary for sharing an article containing an “anti-semitic conspiracy theory”.
Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s quick public support for Long-Bailey is one barometer of that strength of feeling, along with a parallel show of support from Momentum founder Jon Lansman, in spite of Lansman’s recent enthusiasm for an accommodation with the ‘soft left’.
But the action goes beyond expressions of support for Long-Bailey – and the drivers for action go beyond her sacking.
Left MPs are now generating a list of supporters for a leadership challenge to take place next year, after the 2021 local elections, in the event that Starmer fails to shape up.
Members of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, including John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, had been biding their time on the backbenches – sometimes making more strident criticisms of the government than Starmer’s, but remaining scrupulously loyal in public.
Now one of their own has been ruthlessly removed, they will feel emboldened to make their voices heard more loudly. McDonnell, who worked closely with Long-Bailey as shadow chancellor, said he stood in “absolute solidarity” with her.