David Lammy says sorry for Labour’s handling of Rochdale candidate row

David Lammy has said he is “sorry” for Labour’s initial decision to back its Rochdale candidate after his comments on Israel first came to light. Labour stood by Azhar Ali at first, after he claimed Israel allowed Hamas’ attacks as a pretext to invade Gaza.

But the party withdrew support after Mr Ali appeared to blame media figures “from certain Jewish quarters” for criticism of a pro-Palestinian MP.

Mr Lammy said Labour took “decisive action” in suspending Mr Ali.Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said he was “sorry that the initial judgement was that [Mr Ali] made an apology and we could move forward”.

“More came to light and it was right that Keir [Starmer] acted decisively, I’m afraid, to suspend him,” he said.

Asked by Laura Kuenssberg if he was apologising for Labour getting the initial judgement on Mr Ali wrong, Mr Lammy said his party had made progress on tackling antisemitism in the party.

Mr Ali will still be listed as the Labour candidate on the ballot paper as under electoral law it is too late to replace him. However, Mr Ali has been suspended from the party pending an investigation.Mr Lammy told Laura Kuenssberg he was sorry over Labour’s initial judgement in the row
Before his suspension, Labour had spent days defending him as a candidate, after The Mail on Sunday published comments from Mr Ali, claiming Israel had “allowed” the Hamas terror attacks on 7 October.

A day later, the Daily Mail published a fuller recording, allegedly of Mr Ali, blaming “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of Andy McDonald from the Labour Party.

Mr McDonald was suspended last year after saying: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has “led from the front” in removing antisemitism from the party, Mr Lammy said.

“We cannot have any truck with antisemitism in our party,” he added. Mr Lammy said he is “very sorry” that voters in Rochdale no longer have a Labour candidate vote for.

“But I absolutely stand by that decision not to support a candidate who had come up with a whole series of antisemitic tropes,” he said.

In recent months, Labour has suspended two MPs and two prospective MPs from the party for comments related to the Israel-Gaza conflict – including Mr McDonald and Mr Ali.

In January, Kate Osamor had the party whip removed after saying Gaza should be remembered as genocide in a post about Holocaust Memorial Day.

Labour suspended former Hyndburn MP Graham Jones for alleged comments about Israel at the same meeting where Mr Ali spoke.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the group led an attack on communities inside Israel, killing about 1,200 people, most of whom were civilians.

Since then, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and 68,000 injured, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, as Israel launched missiles and ground operations into the Strip in response.

Source: BBC

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Sir Keir Starmer

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