• Wednesday, April 17, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Azhar Ali dropped by Labour in Rochdale over Israel comments

The withdrawal marks a significant setback for Labour, which had initially supported Ali to succeed Sir Tony Lloyd as Rochdale’s MP

Labour candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali launches his by-election campaign on February 07, 2024, in Rochdale, England (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Azhar Ali, previously Labour’s choice for the upcoming Rochdale by-election, has seen his candidacy revoked following his controversial remarks concerning Israel and Jewish individuals.

Initially, Labour defended Ali after he suggested Israel had intentionally not prevented a Hamas attack on October 7 to justify an invasion of Gaza.

However, Labour reversed its stance when further comments emerged from Ali, accusing Jewish media figures of instigating backlash against a pro-Palestinian Labour MP.

It’s now too late for Labour to nominate a new candidate, however, Ali faces the possibility of running as an independent MP.

This predicament arose after the Mail on Sunday (11) disclosed Ali’s comments, which he later regretted, apologising “to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments.”

The situation escalated when the Daily Mail released a more comprehensive recording where Ali is heard criticising “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of Andy McDonald from the Labour Party, alongside comments about Israel’s intentions in Gaza, the BBC reported.

McDonald was suspended last year for advocating justice and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The person on the recording goes on to criticise Israel’s intentions towards Gaza and boasts of blocking Israeli flags from public buildings following a Hamas attack on October 7.

Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator, Pat McFadden, announced Ali’s suspension due to these additional comments.

McFadden highlighted the unusual nature of withdrawing support post-nomination closure as evidence of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s commitment to eradicating antisemitism within the party.

The withdrawal marks a significant setback for Labour, which had initially supported Ali to succeed Sir Tony Lloyd as Rochdale’s MP.

Furthermore, it appears highly improbable that Ali, a Lancashire County Councillor, will be chosen by Labour as a candidate for the upcoming general election.

This incident underscores Labour’s transformed stance under Starmer, aiming to distance the party from the controversies of 2019 and ensure candidates align with its principles.

Following Ali’s controversial comments on Israel, Labour has been under heavy scrutiny, facing criticism from both its own ranks and political opponents.

High-profile members such as Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds, had been campaigning and defending Ali at the weekend and on Monday (12).

Shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds was also sent out on Monday morning to support Labour’s decision to support Ali.

Thomas-Symonds, speaking on BBC Radio 4, highlighted Ali’s apology, and acknowledgment of the comments’ severity. However, Labour’s subsequent retraction of support for Ali introduces further uncertainty into the Rochdale by-election set for February 29.

Competing against him are Simon Danczuk for the Reform Party, George Galloway for the Workers Party of Britain, Tory’s candidate Paul Ellison, Liberal Democrat Iain Donaldson, and Guy Otten of the Green Party, the latter having resigned over his own controversial remarks.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism has criticised Labour’s late withdrawal of support for Ali as lacking principle, suggesting it undermines Starmer’s commitment to eradicating antisemitism within Labour. Prime minister Rishi Sunak echoed this sentiment, attributing the decision to “enormous media pressure” rather than principle.

This controversy follows Labour’s recent disciplinary actions, including two MPs suspensions over conflict-related comments.

Meanwhile, the backdrop of escalating violence between Israel and Hamas has seen significant casualties on both sides.

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