Labour Party Withdraws Support for Rochdale Candidate Azhar Ali
The Labour Party has removed its backing for their Rochdale by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, due to controversial comments he made about Israel.
The BBC reports that Ali has been suspended and is under investigation by the party.
Labour made this decision upon discovering additional remarks by Ali. Despite this, it is too late for Labour to nominate a new candidate, so Ali will still appear on the ballot as Labour's candidate. However, if elected, he would serve as an independent MP or potentially align with another party.
Ali’s future with Labour is doubtful, particularly concerning the next general election. He allegedly made contentious remarks at a party meeting regarding a Hamas attack on Israel.
Ali has since issued an apology to Jewish community leaders for his statements. Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator, Pat McFadden, indicated that the suspension reflects the party's commitment, under Leader Sir Keir Starmer, to eliminating antisemitism from Labour.
The controversy created significant backlash within the party and among political adversaries. Labour faces challenges following the incident as they had earlier supported Ali as their candidate after Sir Tony Lloyd’s passing.
Shadow ministers Lisa Nandy, Anneliese Dodds, and Nick Thomas-Symonds had campaigned for Ali and defended the initial decision to support him.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized Labour for withdrawing support only after mounting media scrutiny, questioning the party's principles.
The by-election is scheduled for Thursday, February 29.