UK Labour suspends candidate Graham Jones for saying Brits in Israeli army should be jailed

UK Labour suspends candidate Graham Jones for saying Brits in Israeli army should be jailed
Graham Jones has been suspended after a leaked recording in which he apparently criticised Israel's conduct in its war on Gaza.
3 min read
14 February, 2024
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has lost support from core supporters and British Muslims over his stance on the Israel-Gaza war [GETTY]

Britain’s Labour Party has suspended a second parliamentary candidate over comments related to Israel's war on Gaza, hours after withdrawing support for MP Azhar Ali in an upcoming by-election.

Former MP Graham Jones, who was standing as a candidate for Hyndburn, was suspended pending an investigation late on Tuesday after comments were leaked in which Jones criticised Israel and British citizens fighting in the Israeli army.

On Tuesday, right-wing blog Guido Fawkes published a leaked audio recording in which Jones says that British citizens fighting for the Israeli forces “should be locked up”.

The comments were alleged to have been said at a meeting with party activists and councillors in Lancashire shortly after the events of October 7, when Jones apparently referred to Israel as "f***ing Israel".

But on Wednesday, some of the Labour establishment rushed to Jones' defence, including former minister Ed Balls. Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain show, Balls said Jones was "absolutely not describe him or what he said as anti-Semitic is untrue".

UK citizens with other nationalities are not barred from serving in foreign armies, however concerns about involvement with the Israeli army have risen amid growing evidence of alleged war crimes committed in Gaza. Israel is also currently facing accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after a filing by South Africa in December.

During the court of the war, the Labour Party has has faced criticism from supporters for failing to call for a ceasefire and instead supporting Israel’s "right to defend itself".

The recording of Jones was taken during the same meeting that now dropped candidate Ali is alleged to have said that Israel allowed Hamas’s 7 October attack to happen in order to give it the "green light" to invade Gaza.

Party leader Keir Starmer maintained support for Ali after he issued a rapid apology following the Mail on Sunday's leaking of the comments.

But this was withdrawn after another leak later emerged in the Daily Mail in which Ali apparently blamed "people in the media from certain Jewish quarters" for fuelling criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP.

Despite the party withdrawing its support, Ali will remain the Labour candidate in the Rochdale by-election later this month, as the deadline has already passed for new candidates.

Starmer’s staunch backing of Israel has cost the party the trust of many British Muslims, with recent polls showing that support for the party has dropped from 86 to 60 percent. 

Since the party came under investigation over alleged antisemitism within its ranks, Starmer has made tackling antisemitism his defining issue since replacing Jeremy Corybn as leader nearly four years ago.

Muslims within the party have said that complaints about Islamophobia have not been dealt with with the same vigour.