Labour Withdraws Support For Rochdale By-Election Candidate Azhar Ali
Labour has withdrawn support for Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali, after widespread criticism of remarks he had made about Israel.
A party spokesperson said on Monday evening that “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.”
The spokesperson added: “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.”
The party has said that it is too late to replace Ali as candidate ahead of the vote on 29 February meaning Labour will no longer be part of the by-election.
According to reports in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend, Ali told a party meeting in Lancashire that Israel had “allowed” the attacks by Hamas on 7 October.
In a statement to the paper, Ali apologised “unreservedly to the Jewish community” for his comments that he said “were deeply offensive, ignorant and false”.
Earlier on Monday, shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds told Sky News that Ali's comments were "completely wrong" and "in no way represent the views of the Labour Party".
He told the broadcaster: "What Councillor Ali also said here is that he apologises unreservedly, he retracts the comments.
"And he's also said, which I think is hugely important, that he understands now the gravity, the scale, the offence that's been caused and knows he needs to rebuild trust."
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