Labour’s Steve Reed apologises for “puppet master” tweet

Labour’s Steve Reed has apologised “unreservedly” for the language he used in a tweet suggesting that Tory donor Richard Desmond was “the puppet master to the entire Tory cabinet”.

The Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary posted on social media this afternoon to apologise for his comment, which referred to an ongoing cash-for-favours scandal involving Desmond and minister Robert Jenrick.

Reed has now said that the post was “inappropriate”, adding that he had deleted it “as soon as I realised my error”. He had tweeted: “Is billionaire former porn-baron Desmond the puppet master for the entire Tory cabinet?”.

Asked about the post in an interview with LBC this morning, Keir Starmer said: “I haven’t seen that tweet and I’ll have a look at it when I finish here.” The leader said he would speak to the shadow cabinet member afterwards.

Responding this afternoon to concerns raised over Reed’s tweet, which has been criticised as antisemitic, a Labour spokesperson said: “Steve deleted the tweet and did not mean to cause any offence.”

It is understood that no further action will be taken by the Labour leadership against the local government spokesperson following his deleting of the tweet and apology issued today.

The comment by Reed follows the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the frontbench last month after she shared an interview containing a claim that US police learnt kneeling on people’s necks “from seminars with Israeli secret services”.

On the firing of Long-Bailey from his team, Starmer reiterated this morning: “I’m absolutely clear in my mind that it was the right thing to do, because I do not want the Labour Party and antisemitism to be in the same sentence ever again.”

Amid accusations of ‘double standards’ over the treatment of the two opposition frontbenchers, allies of the leadership have pointed out that Reed swiftly deleted the tweet and apologised.

Long-Bailey has said that she was told by the leader’s office to quote her original tweet when issuing a clarification, but Starmer’s office has said that she was asked to delete the tweet from the start.

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