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Meet the Pro-Ceasefire MP Candidate Banned by U.K. Labour Party for “Liking” Jon Stewart Skit on Israel

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As voters in the United Kingdom prepare to head to the polls on July 4 for what is widely expected to be a Labour Party landslide, we speak with a prominent candidate who was dropped by the party as part of a purge of left-wing members. Faiza Shaheen was told by Labour leadership that she is no longer the party’s candidate in her London constituency after liking pro-Palestine posts on social media, including a tweet about the difficulties of speaking about Israel-Palestine, which also included a well-known video of comedian Jon Stewart making the same point. Shaheen, a Black economist identified with the left wing of the party, is the latest woman of color to face sanction by the Labour Party now led by centrist Keir Starmer. “Whereas before the Labour Party did have a broad church of voices, they have been systematically blocking and taking out anyone that they consider to be on the left,” says Shaheen, who adds that the party has also ignored the racist and Islamophobic abuse she has received, while protecting many white candidates accused of misconduct. “It’s not just about me or my community or how angry we are here. It’s about the kind of government we’re going to have for the next four or five years.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, as we now go across the pond to London, where we’re joined by Faiza Shaheen, who’s been blocked from running for the British Parliament in the general election by the Labour Party, which suspended her over her social media activity dating back to 2014, because she liked several posts, including those of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and another recent post about The Daily Show. It was a skit that featured The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. This was a skit from 2014 that contributed to her suspension from the Labour Party.

JON STEWART: We’ll start tonight in the Middle East, where Israel —

JASON JONES: What? Israel isn’t supposed to defend itself?

JESSICA WILLIAMS: Oh yeah. If Mexico bombed Texas, will we exercise restraint, Jon?

JORDAN KLEPPER: What other country is held to the same standard as Israel?

MICHAEL CHE: This by people that want to destroy her? Terrorists?

JORDAN KLEPPER: It’s a 4,000-year claim! A 4,000-year claim! A 4,000-year claim!

JASON JONES: What is the matter with you? It’s the only democracy in the Middle East, you jerk!

JORDAN KLEPPER: Self-hating Jew!

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Faiza Shaheen was an MP candidate for the Chingford and Woodford Green seat in the northeast London, challenging incumbent Conservative Iain Duncan Smith. She was also the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green in 2019 and teaches at the London School of Economics. Over the weekend, dozens of people gathered at the rally in support of her, where she said, quote, “I must be honest — after the way I’ve been treated, I don’t think there’s any way back for me into the Labour Party.” Shaheen’s new op-ed for The Guardian is headlined “I was mistreated — and that’s why hundreds of people will no longer vote Labour, they’ve told me.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dr. Faiza Shaheen. Explain what happened. Explain what it was that you were linking to, the views you hold, and why you’ve been suspended by the Labour Party, your — well, what was once your party.

FAIZA SHAHEEN: Yeah. I mean, like the U.S., of course, we have a first-past-the-post system. So, the Labour Party is meant to be a broad church to include views like mine. So, I would be considered to be, you know, the Squad side, the left of the party. I have very progressive views, as you can imagine, because of being on the left, around wealth inequality, public ownership, Palestine, environmental issues. But I was selected to run in the seat, which is my home seat, where I grew up, two years ago. And I also ran back in 2019, where we were one of the few seats to have a swing to Labour, that awful night.

And what happened, there is various processes that they go through in order for you to be picked. And I’ve already been through it, a process where they looked at my tweets, etc. Now, what’s happened in the last few weeks is there’s been another push to get rid of me. This has been ongoing since I’ve been selected. I’ve been bullied. I’ve been, you know, harassed. And this time they found a few tweets, including that sketch with Jon Stewart, that, basically, they took to show that I was engaging in antisemitism. And other tweets they included, that went all the way — it was 14 tweets, by the way, from 2014 ’til now. And some of those tweets were, say, my friend running as a councillor for the Green Party, before I had even joined the Labour Party. Another one of the tweets was me talking about my experiences of Islamophobia within the Labour Party, which they said undermines the ability for the Labour Party to win elections. And so, on that ground — on those grounds, I mean, to be — the process was horrible.

And what happened was, they started briefing the press before they even told me what was going on. And the final email I got from them said, “The reason we’re dropping you as a candidate is because you undermine our primary purpose, to win elections.” This comes as a clear contrast — the way I was treated — to other people in the Labour Party who have done a lot worse than like a tweet, have said racist things, and who have been there aft, but who happen to be on the right of the party.

AMY GOODMAN: The comedian Jon Stewart responded to the news of your suspension by saying on social media, quote, “This is the dumbest thing The UK has done since electing Boris Johnson…what the actual F—,” he said.

FAIZA SHAHEEN: Yeah, I really — I woke up to see that, and I really appreciated him tweeting that.

But, you know, the way it is here about issues of antisemitism is that a lot is conflated. So, in that piece, for instance, in that tweet, there was something about the Israel lobby, which, of course, is a reality in the U.S., you know, as AIPAC. But that is seen to be antisemitic here, or is being pushed as that. And so, I have been labeled because of that.

I mean, I also don’t even remember liking that tweet. So, it’s just very frustrating, for the liking of a few things here and there, which is very sparse, very hodgepodge, if you look at this dossier that they brought together about me. And it’s just obvious that something else is going on. And it’s actually really painful. I feel a bit better the last couple of days because of the incredible support I’ve got in the community. But, you know, I’ve worked upon the seat for a total of more than four years, and worked so hard to get it to a point where we were just about to win it, and now they’ve taken that away. Within 24 hours, they had put in another candidate, who doesn’t know this area, comes from the other side of London. And the community is very, very angry.

And I think it also sends us a message about the type of Labour government we’re going to have, because they are going to win. They’re going to win big. All the polling shows that. You know, I’m really excited about getting rid of the Conservatives. We’ve had a terrible time here since they were elected in 2010. But what it shows us is that whereas before the Labour Party did have a broad church of voices, they have been systematically blocking and taking out anyone that they consider to be on the left.

And a reminder that I’m not some radical. I’m way — I’m not that interesting. I mean, I’m an academic at London School of Economics. You know, I’ve worked for governments around the world on their economic policy. I’ve worked at NYU. And so, it’s quite shocking to people that I’ve been treated this way, especially as a new mum, especially as I’ve been working so hard and visibly working so hard to win for Labour.

AMY GOODMAN: Faiza Shaheen, I wanted to also ask you about Diane Abbott, the first Black woman elected to Parliament, in 1987, as an MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has served in the Parliament for more than 30 years, historic figure. She was suspended from the Labour Party last year after writing a letter to The Observer saying Jewish and Irish people did not experience racism in the same way Black community members do. She apologized for the remarks. And then she had to take a course in fighting antisemitism, something like that, before she was — was she readmitted to the Labour Party and now once again running for the Parliament?

FAIZA SHAHEEN: Yes. This has been a terrible, terrible, like, just appalling behavior. She is a political icon, first Black woman. She gets so much abuse. She wrote that letter. She, you know, apologized. The wording was all wrong. And she then went on to do various different processes that meant that she should have been restored with the whip. They’ve been saying, “Oh, well, the investigation is ongoing. The investigation is ongoing,” apparently finished ages ago. They’ve really messed this woman around. I mean, she’s considered like an auntie to all of us. I mean, she’s just a big icon, and so the people really got behind her in trying to push Labour to change its mind. Finally, it has, but only because of the people coming together and protesting.

But this, again, is another example of where the left is being purged from the Labour Party, but also where double standards exist within the Labour Party, because if you look at what other white male MPs have done, for instance, they have been let off, whereas she was really, really humiliated in many ways. And it’s really just not on. And I think a lot of people here — and I talk about this in the article, the hundreds and hundreds of emails that I’ve got. They’re just saying, like, “We’re worried about this, because what does it say about how Labour will be in government if it treats women of color this way and women on the left, and men, as well, actually?” So, I think there’s a broader point here that needs to make, and it’s not just about me or my community and how angry we are here. It’s about the kind of government we’re going to have for the next four to five years.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Shaheen, we just have 20 seconds, but so that you’re not mischaracterized in what you’re calling for, hundreds of thousands of people in Britain have protested Israel’s war on Gaza. What are you calling for right now?

FAIZA SHAHEEN: Yeah, I mean, a permanent ceasefire. You know, we need to have a longer-term solution. I’ve been to so many protests over my lifetime. And yeah, I mean, absolutely, we need some kind of two-state solution that recognizes issues with settlements in the West Bank. But we need to find a way for these countries to coexist, and we need to stop the killing. I mean, it’s not a radical position. It’s not a radical position that we say that we need to stop killing innocent civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: Faiza Shaheen, I thank you so much for being with us, blocked from running for Parliament in Britain’s general election, after the Labour Party suspended her over her social media activity, including her liking of a Jon Stewart skit on The Daily Show. We’re going to link to your piece in The Guardian, headlined “I was mistreated — and that’s why hundreds of people will no longer vote Labour, they’ve told me.”

Next up, to South Africa, the historic election. The African National Congress no longer holds the majority. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: The Village People’s “Go West,” covered by Pet Shop Boys. This weekend marked the beginning of Pride Month.

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