Labour withdraws support for Rochdale candidate

The Labour Party has withdrawn support for its candidate in the Rochdale by-election after “new information” emerged about comments he is alleged to have made.

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said: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.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.”Mr Ali’s candidacy had been thrown in the spotlight after the Mail On Sunday reported he had told a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party that Israel deliberately allowed the Hamas atrocity to take place in order to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

Mr Ali had earlier issued an “unreserved” apology for the “deeply offensive, ignorant and false” comments, but Sir Keir had been under pressure to act due to promises he had made to rid his party of antisemitism.

Later on Monday evening, the Daily Mail reported the new comments in question, in which Mr Ali is alleged to have blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for fuelling criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP as well as claiming that Israel planned to “get rid of [Palestinians] from Gaza” and “grab” some of the land.

Sky News has approached Mr Ali and the Labour Party for comment. Speaking to reporters after the decision to withdraw support was made, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, Pat McFadden, said Sir Keir had taken the “tough but necessary” decision to disown Mr Ali.

“When Keir Starmer became leader of the Labour Party, he said he would change the Labour Party and expect that every candidate and MP would operate to the highest standards,” he said.

“And although it is a difficult decision, today, he’s put those words into action. And unfortunately we’ve had to take this difficult decision.”

Mr McFadden’s comments came despite Mr Ali receiving the support of senior shadow ministers as recently as Monday.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow minister without portfolio, told Sky News this morning that although the comments were “totally unacceptable”, Mr Ali had apologised “unreservedly” and would continue to be the Labour candidate.

And hours earlier, Mr McFadden defended Mr Ali on Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, pointing out that he had issued a full apology and retraction.

But asked what had changed in the last 24 hours, Mr McFadden said today: “More comments have come to light which meant we had to look at this situation again.

“Once we saw those comments, Keir Starmer took [the] swift decision, took the tough but necessary action to withdraw support for Mr Ali’s candidacy.

Source: CNN

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