'Even Hamas would be shocked by Azhar Ali's comments,' Labour official says as second candidate is suspended over Israel remarks

13 February 2024, 19:21 | Updated: 13 February 2024, 22:45

'Even Hamas would be shocked at Azhar Ali's comments', a member of the Labour Party's governing body has told LBC
'Even Hamas would be shocked at Azhar Ali's comments', a member of the Labour Party's governing body has told LBC. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

'Even Hamas would be shocked at Azhar Ali's comments', a member of the Labour Party's governing body has told LBC as it was revealed a second Labour candidate has now been suspended over alleged remarks about Israel.

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Mish Rahman, a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee (NEC), told Andrew Marr this evening that "even Hamas would be shocked" by the "conspiracy theory" allegedly promoted by the party's candidate for the Rochdale by-election.

Mr Ali allegedly suggested in a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party that British people who volunteer to fight with the Israeli Defence Forces should be "locked up" and suggested that Israel had taken the October 7 Hamas assault as a pretext to invade Gaza. He has since apologised.

The by-election candidate is believed to be suspended pending an investigation after his party stripped him of their backing.

Rochdale by-election: See the full list of candidates here

Labour NEC member Mish Rahman discusses Azhar Ali’s comments

Read More: Labour suspends candidate after 'unacceptable' Israel comments 'made at meeting with disowned Rochdale contender'

Read More: Sir Keir Starmer insists he has 'torn anti-Semitism out of Labour' with swift action over Rochdale candidate

It comes hours after audio emerged Tuesday that appeared to show former Labour MP Graham Jones using the words "f***ing Israel" at the same meeting that led to the withdrawal of support for Mr Ali by the party's leadership.

The Hyndburn candidate is understood to have been administratively suspended from the party, pending an investigation, following the report from Guido Fawkes.

However Mr Rahman also took issue with the way the Labour leadership had dealt with complaints against members, claiming different factions - those on the centre who were ideologically close to Sir Keir Starmer and the leadership, and those on the left-wing of the party - were "treated differently".

"The issue at hand is the hypocrisy and double standards applied when it's dealing with one of the leadership's faction... compared to somebody who would be seen as on the left of the party.

"I would say to Keir Starmer that consistency is important," Mr Rahman continued. "Our party is based on a values system. We claim to be an anti-racist party.

"Regardless of who messes up, we should either be tolerant to everybody or we should be zero tolerant to everybody - regardless of where they're from [on the political spectrum].

"There have been a number of scenarios where different people seem to be treated differently... I would urge Keir Starmer to treat everybody the same regardless of what part of the party they're from.

Martin Forde on why Labour 'was right' to suspend Graham Jones

Read More: New Labour rift as think tank boss apologises for calling for people smugglers to be sent to Scotland in 'cringe' comments

Read More: Labour's by-election candidate 'completely wrong' to say Israel allowed October 7 attack, campaign coordinator says

Mr Rahman also told LBC it was not yet appropriate for him to comment on allegations of comments made by Jones. "As a member of the NEC... I wouldn't be wise to give an opinion on this because if this is coming to a disciplinary panel... I don't want to prejudge myself," he said.

Mr Rahman, himself, has vocally called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Speaking as he campaigned in Wellingborough today, Starmer said: "Certain information came to light over the weekend in relation to the candidate. There was a fulsome apology. Further information came to light yesterday calling for decisive action, so I took decisive action.

"It is a huge thing to withdraw support for a Labour candidate during the course of a by-election.

"It's a tough decision, a necessary decision, but when I say the Labour Party has changed under my leadership I mean it."

Labour had come under serious pressure after the original remarks emerged, with the comments condemned by figures inside the party as well as by political opponents.

Sir Keir sought to move his party on from the Jeremy Corbyn era, which was overshadowed by controversies over antisemitism.

Tonight with Andrew Marr | Watch again 13/02

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