Allegations of Antisemitism have haunted The Labour party since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader in 2015. This resulted in many Jewish life-long labour voters deserting the party in recent elections. The Guardian reported that in 2017 only 11% of Jewish voters voted Labour with 67% backing the Tories; in 2010 the share of this voter demographic was believed to be split evenly between the two parties.
Shortly after being announced as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement, Kier Starmer described antisemitism as a “stain” on the party, promising to “tear out this poison by its roots”. The recent sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey for retweeting an interview with actor and Labour supporter Maxine Peake, containing an antisemitic conspiracy theory linking Israel with the brutal murder of George Floyd by police in America, showed Starmers promise was more than just a war of words. Zero-tolerance to anti-Semitism within the Labour party is a fundamental part of Starmers strategy to regain the trust of voters who were lost during the Corbyn years. However, how did the public respond to this policy in action – we analysed twitter to find out.
The reaction to the sacking highlights the complexity seen between the factions of the Labour party, with a more negative sentiment coming from supporters of the Corbyn era, whom were pledged solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey (RBL). Our analytics found the top emotive terms used by supporters of RBL were “disgraceful” and “overreaction”. With the Tweet with the highest engagement coming from Twitter user @AyoCeaser who criticised the sacking describing it as an “utterly disgraceful decision” and that it undermined the ability of the Labour party to criticise Israel policy without being antisemitic.
Analysis shows a large amount of support for Starmer’s decision with 👏 being the most regularly used emoji coupled with the frequent use of the emotive term “glad”. Many Twitter users believed it showed true leadership, highlighting the apparent contrast seen across the house¬ in which it appears there is nothing that can get a minister or advisor sacked from Johnston’s cabinet. With Tweets describing it as “actual strong, unequivocal leadership” and another user saying if only “Johnston had shown decisive leadership and sacked Cummings and Jenrick”.
However, with four years left till the next election only time will tell if Starmers no nonsense approach is enough to win back those lost Labour voters.