Rochdale by-election chaos for Labour after party withdraws support for candidate over Israel comments

Rochdale by-election chaos for Labour after party withdraws support for candidate over Israel comments
The Labour Party won't be able to select a new candidate in the by-election, set to occur next month, as the deadline has passed to find a replacement
2 min read
13 February, 2024
Azhar Ali had been running for Labour in an upcoming by-election in Rochdale [Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]

Britain's opposition Labour Party has withdrawn support for its candidate to become a member of parliament in a special election after he was recorded espousing conspiracy theories about Israel.

Labour announced it had withdrawn support for Azhar Ali, its by-election candidate for Rochdale in northern England, after he suggested Israel had relaxed its security in run up to the attack by Hamas last year to provide grounds to invade Gaza.

A spokesperson for Labour said that the party had withdrawn support for Ali, and it will not be able to find another candidate because the deadline has passed to replace him.

"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," the spokesperson said.

Ali said that the United States had warned Israel a day before that an attack was planned by Hamas and they "deliberately took the security off" so they would have the opportunity to "do whatever they bloody want", according to a recording reported in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Israel launched its offensive on Gaza, which has killed 28,473 Palestinians, after a Hamas attack on 7 October led to the killing of 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. 

Ali apologised for the comments on Sunday, which he said were "deeply offensive, ignorant, and false".

The Rochdale by-election will take place on 29 February to replace its member of parliament after a Labour politician died last month.

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Labour, which polls indicate is likely to form Britain's next government after a general election expected in the second half of this year, faced accusations that some within its ranks discriminated against and harassed Jews under its former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

However, the party has also faced accusations of Islamophobia within its ranks -- an issue that Muslim members say the leadership has not sufficiently addressed.

The Rochdale by-election is set to be a key test for Labour amid calls to abandon the party over its support for Israel and refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.