Labour withdrew support for Rochdale by-election
Labour’s decision to withdraw support for Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali reeks of hypocritical political expedience rather than sincere principle. While Ali’s comments were deemed unacceptable, and his apologies paraded in front of Jewish communities it was clear Labour only acted due to both media and social media pressure after initially defending him. Unsurprisingly this exposes the hollowness of Sir Keir Starmer’s vows to strongly confront antisemitism.
Azhar Ali’s comments came in the form of a conspiracy theory when he allegedly claimed Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 of its citizens to be massacred on October 7th 2023 in order to give it the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza.
Mr Ali is alleged to have told a Labour party meeting that Israel had “allowed” the deadly attack by Hamas gunmen on 7 October.
Mr Ali made his initial remarks at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party soon after the attacks, making the astonishing claim that the Israeli government had removed its border security to give the Hamas terrorists free rein.
He told the meeting: ‘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.’
After someone suggested Sir Keir was ‘held in high regard’, Mr Ali replied: ‘Can I disagree with you… A lot of the MPs I’ve spoken to, non-Muslim MPs, feel that on this issue, he’s lost the confidence of the parliamentary party.’
Mr Ali was selected last month to contest the by-election, caused by the death of Sir Tony Lloyd. He served a five-year stint as a Government advisor under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
Labour stood by Azhar Ali hoping to weather the storm however, an online campaign #ItWasAScam rightly pointed out the hypocrisy shown by Sir Keir Starmer and his ham acted pledge to root antisemitism out of the Labour Party only applying to his political opponents.
In truth, Labour selectively weaponises allegations of antisemitism for political gain. The party only condemned and suspended Ali once his remarks became too hot to handle.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said Labour’s decision to withdraw support was “the worst of all worlds”.
“Rather than appearing as a principled decision, Labour’s withdrawal of support for its candidate at this late stage just looks as expedient as the failed attempt to defend him,” the spokesperson added.
“Sir Keir Starmer has blotted an otherwise fairly admirable copybook and given the public reason to doubt the earnestness of his promise to tear antisemitism out ‘by its roots’ in Labour.”
Starmer’s inaction left Labour right open
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak immediately seized on the developments in Rochdale to further his accusation that Sir Keir had “no principles at all“.
“Keir Starmer has been running around for the last year trying to tell everybody ‘OK, Labour Party’s changed’,” he said.
“Well, look what just happened in Rochdale, a candidate saying the most vile conspiracy theories, antisemitic, and what happened?
“He’s stood by and sent cabinet ministers to support him, until literally five minutes before I walked on tonight, under enormous media pressure, has decided to change his mind on principle. No principles at all.
“So no the Labour Party hasn’t changed. It’s a con.”
Grant Shapps, the Conservative defence secretary who is Jewish, questioned why Labour had not acted sooner, writing on X: “A real shame that communities have had to once again endure prolonged Labour support for someone spewing antisemitism and conspiracy theories.
“This should have been dealt with immediately.”
In recent months, Labour has suspended two of its MPs from the party for comments related to the conflict.
In January, Kate Osamor had the party whip removed after saying Gaza should be remembered as genocide in a post about Holocaust Memorial Day. Last year, Andy McDonald was suspended after saying: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”
For most right minded people it would be difficult to find any form of antisemitism in either Kate Osamor or Andy McDonald’s comments. However, it shows the way Labour use selective outrage and weaponises antisemitism against the left wing of their own party.
This glaring double standard reveals that for Labour, antisemitism is often just a convenient cudgel to wield against the left. Starmer has used it to persecute socialist or Left leanning MPs while ignoring similar problematic rhetoric from centrist allies. His inconsistent reactions appear driven by political calculations rather than ethics.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to condemn Israel’s brutal violence against civilians in Gaza has rightly provoked outrage and disgust. As the death toll of innocents mounted, Starmer callously chose political convenience over principle. His silence in the face of such clear oppression and slaughter is unconscionable.
The fact that Hamas carried out a massacre on Isreals on the 7th of October does not and cannot give excuse for such biblical slaughter and revenge.
The images of dead Palestinian children and weeping mothers in Gaza expose the sheer inhumanity of this assault. Yet Starmer ignores their suffering, prioritizing Labour’s electoral prospects over solidarity with the oppressed. His appeasement of pro-Israel interests overtly condones the war crimes being inflicted on a trapped population.
This craven complacency shocks the conscience of all who care about human rights. Starmer’s failure to speak out unequivocally against the massacre of civilians undermines any claim to ethical leadership. His blithe attitude trivializes Gazans’ lives in the calculus of political positioning.
This has led to a number of Labour frontbench MPs and councillors having resigned over the party’s initial position and reluctance to call for a ceasefire. There was also controversy after Sir Keir appeared to claim in October that Israel had a right to cut off power and water from Gaza, although he later said he was instead supporting Israel’s right to self-defence.
Some 59% of Muslims, according to the Muslim Census survey results released last October, intend to either not vote at all or vote for an independent candidate at the next election – 71% said they voted for Labour in 2019.
Clearly, prejudice in Labour exists only to be punished when politically useful. This cynical opportunism may grant short-term advantage but has destroyed Labour’s credibility as an anti-racist force. It also insults Jewish and Muslim communities exploited for partisan goals.
As for the Rochdale by-election, at the moment George Galloway is leading the way, good luck George.
See below the full list of candidates and the political parties they represent:
Azhar Ali, (listed as Labour Party, but now removed as their candidate)
Mark Coleman, Independent
Simon Danczuk, Reform UK
Iain Donaldson, Liberal Democrats
Paul Ellison, The Conservative Party Candidate
George Galloway, Workers’ Party of Britain
Michael Howarth, Independent
William Howarth, Independent
Guy Otten, Green Party
Ravin Subortna, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
David Tully, Independent