Labour Party withdraws support for Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali

The Labour Party has withdrawn support from its Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali after mounting pressure from pro-Israel groups and individuals over his secretly recorded remarks suggesting Israel let the October 7 attacks happen so it could invade Gaza.

It is understood that Ali has also been suspended from the party pending an investigation.

The decision now means that Labour will have no candidate as it is now too late for a new one to be added to ballot papers for the contest at the end of the month.

Ali, leader of the Labour group on Lancashire County Council, had apologised after the Mail on Sunday reported he had said Israel “allowed” the Hamas attacks of October 7th in order to get a “green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

But a Labour party spokesperson said on Monday night: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in  the Rochdale by-election.

“Keir Starmer has changed Labour so that it is unrecognisible from the party of 2019. We understand that these are highly unusual circumstances but it is vital that any candidate put forward by Labour fully represents its aims and values. Given that nominations have now closed Azhar Ali cannot be replaced as the candidate.”

The spokesperson did not give further information on the apparent “new information,” however.

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Workers Party of Britain candidate George Galloway will now be clear favourite to win the seat and in a Twitter reaction he said he would now aim for a landslide victory.

He said: “Labour has once again brought disgrace to Rochdale… Their disastrous choice of candidate, their disastrous failure to immediately repudiate that candidate… the continuation of a campaign that was already dead in the water the moment the leaked tape recording of his foolish remarks hit the press at the weekend.”

Mr Ali had earlier issued an “unreserved” apology for the “deeply offensive, ignorant and false” comments. And the Labour Party had initially stood by him.

But over the last few days Labour received an official complaint about the comments from the campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS), which branded the remarks “antisemitic.”

George Galloway. Pic: Workers Party.

Alex Hearn, who is a director of the campaign group and member of the Labour Party, submitted a formal complaint against Mr Ali this afternoon in which he wrote: “The accusation that Jews plotted a massacre of innocent people for their own bloodthirsty gain is antisemitic.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak immediately seized on the developments in Rochdale to further his accusation that Sir Keir has “no principles at all.”

“Keir Starmer has been running around for the last year trying to tell everybody ‘OK, Labour Party’s changed’,” he said.

“Well, look what just happened in Rochdale, a candidate saying the most vile conspiracy theories, antisemitic, and what happened?

“He’s stood by and sent cabinet ministers to support him, until literally five minutes before I walked on tonight, under enormous media pressure, has decided to change his mind on principle. No principles at all.

“So no the Labour Party hasn’t changed. It’s a con.”

And the Jewish Labour Movement statement said the party was “right to cease campaigning” for Mr Ali.

“As he cannot be removed from the ballot, we believe it is correct that he will not sit as a Labour MP if elected.”

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