The Labour Party MP for Leicester East was confronted by BBC Radio 5 host Emma Barnett on Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to fire Rebecca Long-Bailey after the shadow cabinet member shared an article on Twitter last week. But after she was repeatedly asked to confirm whether she believed it was an act of anti-Semitism, Claudia Webbe refused to give a clear answer sparking the outrage of Labour Party members.
The BBC host blasted: “Claudia you’re ignoring me, I’ve asked you four times. Was it anti-Semitic or not?”
Claudia Webbe replied: “The leader himself has said, he didn’t fire Rebecca because she did something anti-Semitic.
“That wasn’t why he fired her.”
But Ms Barnett insisted: “I have to correct you, Claudia, I’m terribly sorry.
“He said today: ‘I took the view it was anti-Semitism’. He said that today: ‘Rebecca had tweeted about it, I wanted her to take the tweet down straight away and that didn’t happen. And in the end, and to that end, I asked her to stand down from the shadow cabinet’. Keir Starmer said this morning.
“Can I get your view? Why can’t you say?”
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The BBC host added: “Do you think it was anti-Semitic as an elected member of Parliament? Yes or no?”
As the Labour MP replied “Rebecca Long-Bailey made clear that she did not endorse the article”, Ms Barnett tried again: “Can I ask you for your opinion, please?
“I don’t know it. I’m at the end of our conversation and I’ve got no idea what your view is.”
To which Ms Webbe replied: “I’ve given you my answer.
“I’ve made clear that it’s up to the leader to hire and fire. He’s made clear that he didn’t fire Rebecca Long-Bailey because she was anti-Semitic, that she herself is anti-Semitic.
“Rebecca Long-Bailey has made clear that she did not endorse the article in its entirety.”
She concluded: “You’re not actually going to get any further from me.”
The interview sparked the furious reaction of Labour Party members and BBC listeners. Chair of the Young Fabians and Labour activist Adam Allnutt called on Labour Party members in Leicester to decide whether she could continue in her post.
He tweeted: “The Labour Party members of Leicester East have a decision to make on whether they have confidence in her.
“This is a horrid and embarrassing interview.”
BBC listeners also took to Twitter to express their outrage.
One wrote: “Wow that was an absolute car crash of an interview. I thought she was bad last week but this is a whole new level of awfulness. Thank goodness she’s not my MP.”
And another: “Webbe was parachuted into a safe Labour seat by Corbyn against the wishes of the local CLP and nearly lost the seat.”
One Twitter user said: “Extraordinarily dim evasive dissembling does not go down well with the electorate in Islington South or Leicester East – the mystery is why the hard left think that they can patronise the electorate with this sort of rubbish – bad politics, bad form and not an ounce of competence.”
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And another: “I don’t care what political party they’re from but if MPs are wheeled out to speak to broadcast media they should be well briefed, versed & have an opinion that they can commit to, even if it’s ‘I don’t know’. Well done Emma Barnett, this is the kind of interviewing we need.”
But others criticised the BBC Radio host for her line of questioning.
One listener wrote: “This is disgusting from this BBC staff person…pushing to get Claudia herself sacked.”
And another said: “Please BBC give it up neither Ms Long Bailey or Ms Peake are antisemitic, they did not write or say anything that was antisemitic.
”This is so farcical and detracts from any real antisemitism.
“Please just stop it.”
Claudia Webbe responded to the BBC post: “Dear @bbc5live, I did not agree to this part of the interview; I had the huge & enormous worry of the Leicester #COVID19 crisis on my mind; situation in Leicester has totally consumed me. I notice I am receiving a huge amount of misogyny, hate & abuse as a result of this interview.”