Labour suspends second parliamentary candidate after recording emerges

Labour has suspended a second parliamentary candidate over comments he allegedly made about Israel. Graham Jones, the former Labour MP for Hyndburn, is also facing an investigation, the BBC understands.

It comes after Labour withdrew support for the party’s candidate for the Rochdale by-election, Azhar Ali, for apparently making antisemitic remarks. Mr Jones has been contacted for comment. Labour had selected Mr Jones to contest his former Lancashire seat in the forthcoming general election. The BBC understands Mr Jones was suspended for comments he appears to have made about Israel – but Labour has yet to identify the specific remarks.

But, on Tuesday the Guido Fawkes website published audio in which the former MP allegedly uses an expletive to refer to Israel and argues that British people who fight in the Israel Defense Forces “should be locked up”.

Ministers have confirmed that British nationals with dual nationalities can “serve in legitimately recognised armed forces of the country of their other nationalities”.

At the same meeting, Mr Ali is alleged to have blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of MP Andy McDonald from Labour. The Jewish Labour Movement said Mr Jones’ alleged comments were “appalling and unacceptable”. The group later said it was “pleased” that Mr Jones had been “swiftly suspended”. Mr Jones has been called in for an interview and the party will need to go through a formal process to remove his candidacy.

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer insisted he took “decisive action” over comments made by Mr Ali, whose apparent remarks were published by the Daily Mail.

The party initially stood by Mr Ali when the MP hopeful apologised for telling a meeting of Labour members and councilors that Israel had “allowed” the Hamas attacks on 7 October as a pretext to invade Gaza.

However, when the Daily Mail published a fuller recording from the meeting, Labour made the decision to withdraw support. Defending his actions, Sir Keir said: “Further information came to light yesterday calling for decisive action, so I took decisive action.

“It is a huge thing to withdraw support for a Labour candidate during the course of a by-election. But when I say the Labour Party has changed under my leadership I mean it.”

On Tuesday evening, former Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman said she had spoken to Mr Ali, who apologised to her for his comments.

Dame Louise told BBC North West Tonight Mr Ali “should be upset” because his comments were “truly shocking” and “go against the record of the person I knew and worked with” for over 20 years. Sir Keir Starmer on dropping Labour’s Rochdale candidate: “I took decisive action”

When Sir Keir became Labour leader in 2020, he promised to tackle antisemitism saying he would “tear out this poison by its roots”.

However, in recent days he has received criticism for failing to withdraw support from Mr Ali sooner.

Martin Forde, who led a review into allegations of bullying and racism in the Labour Party, said the handling of the case had been “pretty shambolic” and it would have been “sensible” to withdraw support for Mr Ali when his comments first emerged.

The senior lawyer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that some Labour MPs believe there is uneven handling of antisemitism cases across party factions.

Left-leaning MPs feel Labour’s disciplinary process is slow for them “but if you’re in the right faction of the party, as it were, then things are dealt with either more leniently or more swiftly”, Mr Forde said.

The Labour leader received support from Lord Mann, the government’s adviser on antisemitism and a former Labour MP.

He said it was “a bold decision, basically to throw away a parliamentary seat”, adding: “I think the Jewish community, as it reflects, will take quite a lot of comfort from the fact that Sir Keir Starmer has been prepared to do that. Housing minister Lee Rowley told the BBC the situation with Mr Ali had been “a complete mess”.

Although Labour has withdrawn their support, electoral rules mean that Mr Ali will still appear as the party’s candidate on the ballot paper. If elected he would sit as an independent.

Also running are former Labour MPs Simon Danczuk, now the Reform Party candidate, and George Galloway, of the Workers Party of Britain, who has campaigned against Labour’s stance on Gaza.

Source: BBC

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