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

12 February 2024, 07:14 | Updated: 12 February 2024, 13:30

Azhar Ali said Israel 'allowed 7 October attack'
Azhar Ali said Israel 'allowed 7 October attack'. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Labour's Rochdale by-election candidate was "completely wrong" to say Israel allowed the October 7 attack to go ahead, the party's campaign coordinator has said.

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Azhar Ali was forced to issue an apology after he claimed at a party meeting in Lancashire that the Israeli government had removed its border security to allow Hamas to carry out the attack, the Mail on Sunday reported.

He said: "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."

Rochdale by-election | Full list of candidates

Labour candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali (left), is joined by Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham in Rochdale town centre
Labour candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali (left), is joined by Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham in Rochdale town centre. Picture: Alamy

It is too late to remove Ali from the ballot, though there remains outrage that he will be allowed to stand.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has branded Labour's stance "obscene", with the comments described as "disgraceful".

"This is distressingly familiar to days that Keir Starmer promised were behind us," a spokesperson for the group said.

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"This is not tearing anti-Semitism out 'by its roots'. Labour must urgently re-examine this obscene decision if its leader is to be regarded as a man of his word."

Speaking to LBC News, Reform UK leader Richard Tice said: “It's quite clear that the Labour Party candidate in Rochdale has deeply anti-Semitic views and has no place frankly in any electoral process. And if Keir Starmer truly has turned around the Labour Party, as we're just hearing there from Nick Thomas Symmonds, then he needs to demonstrate that clear leadership and make it absolutely clear to all that he no longer enjoys the support of the Labour Party, that campaigning will stop, and that in the event that he is elected he would then have the whip withdrawn immediately."

He added: "A man with anti-Semitic views who the Labour Party members have then appointed as their candidate in the knowledge of that, and they now regret the fact that it's come out into the public domain and they've got to deal with it. And that's their problem."

“I just think, you know, a leader like Keir Starmer has got to show that leadership. He's the one with the problem. He's gotta stamp it out. No one else. And if he can't do that, then it shows that he's weak and kowtowing for these people.”

Speaking on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, senior shadow frontbencher Pat McFadden said he hoped Ali "learns a good lesson from" what he said.

Starmer is being urged to punish Ali
Starmer is being urged to punish Ali. Picture: Getty

Mr McFadden said : "His comments were completely wrong.

"He should never have said something like that."He's issued a complete apology and retraction and I hope he learns a good lesson from it because he should never have said something like that in the first place."