Rochdale by-election: Labour withdraws support for candidate Azhar Ali after Israel comments
Date published: 13 February 2024
Azhar Ali with GM mayor Andy Burnham at the launch of his Rochdale by-election campaign on 7 February
The Labour party will no longer be endorsing its candidate for the Rochdale parliamentary by-election following comments he made alleging that Israel deliberately allowed 7 October terrorist attack.
Azhar Ali, leader of the Lancashire Labour group, had told a meeting of the Lancashire party shortly after the attacks: “The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten days earlier… Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening. They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”
He has now apologised “unreservedly” for the remarks, which he also acknowledges were “false.”
However, the party withdrew support for their candidate on Monday evening (12 February), saying: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.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 unrecognisable 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.”
Councillor Ali is also understood to have been suspended from the Labour party, pending investigation.
The deadline to remove Councillor Ali from the ballot paper has passed meaning his name will still appear for the Labour party when voters go to the polling station on 29 February.
The lack of endorsement for County Councillor Ali means two candidates are now not being supported by their parties, as Guy Otten, the Green candidate, had support withdrawn last week.
Mr Otten stepped down from the race after old social media posts circulated, showing him making reference to the Muslim faith and Gaza conflict in posts from 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Reporting: Michelle Kight, Rochdale Online News; Paul Faulkner, Local Democracy Reporting Service
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