UK

Labour withdrew support for Rochdale by-election candidate after ‘new information’ emerged

The Labour Party has withdrawn support for its candidate in the Rochdale by-election after receiving an official complaint over his “antisemitic” remarks.

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

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.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.”

It comes after Sky News revealed the party had received an official complaint about Mr Ali’s comments about the 7 October attack on Israel, in which he suggested Israel deliberately allowed the Hamas atrocity to take place in order to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

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Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS), a campaign group founded by Labour members to combat antisemitism within the party, earlier today called for Mr Ali’s immediate suspension as a candidate and party member.

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.”

In a statement, LAAS, which is not affiliated with the Labour Party, told Sky News: “We were appalled by Mr Ali’s comments and call for his immediate suspension.

Sir Keir Starmer has made good progress fighting antisemitism in the Labour Party, but this episode shows that more needs to be done or it risks becoming a bigger problem.”

Mr Ali had earlier issued an “unreserved” apology for the “deeply offensive, ignorant and false” comments.

Although Labour has withdrawn its support for Mr Ali, it is understood he will still appear on the ballot paper in the by-election as the party’s candidate.

The decision to drop support for Mr Ali comes after shadow minister without portfolio, Nick Thomas-Symonds, told Sky News this morning that his comments were “completely wrong… totally unacceptable and they in no way represent the views of the Labour Party”.

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