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Labour members could switch their support to Reform and back ex-MP Simon Danczuk to stop George Galloway winning in Rochdale after party finally pulls support for Azhar Ali over anti-Semitic comments about Gaza war


Labour activists are considering a desperate move to support Reform in the upcoming Rochdale by-election to stop George Galloway winning, after the party severed ties with its own candidate over anti-Semitic comments about Gaza war.

Members have discussed backing Reform’s Simon Danczuk, who was previously a Labour MP in the town, after being ordered to stop supporting Azhar Ali. 

Sir Keir Starmer’s party was last night forced to withdraw its support for a by-election candidate after the Daily Mail uncovered more of his anti-Semitic comments.

Mr Ali, who claimed Israel ‘deliberately allowed’ Hamas‘s October 7 massacre of its own people, was suspended from the party pending an investigation.

Yet just hours earlier, Sir Keir Starmer‘s team had rallied behind the councillor – claiming he had simply fallen for an ‘online conspiracy theory’ and that it was ‘out of character’ for him to be anti-Semitic.

Mr Galloway, who is also a former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant, is making his latest attempt to win a Westminster seat at a by-election. A strident critic of Israel and the West he has previously won in historically Labour areas with sizeable Muslim populations, including Bradford West and Bethnal Green and Bow in east London.

Last night local Labour activists told the Guardian:  ‘Simon may be the best way of keeping [George Galloway] out. It’s the devil and the deep blue sea.’

Meanwhile, senior Labour frontbenchers today refused to face the media to answer questions about the saga. 

Azhar Ali, who claimed Israel 'deliberately allowed' Hamas 's October 7 massacre of its own people, was suspended from the party pending an investigation.

Azhar Ali, who claimed Israel ‘deliberately allowed’ Hamas ‘s October 7 massacre of its own people, was suspended from the party pending an investigation. 

Members have discussed backing Reform's Simon Danczuk, who was previously a Labour MP in the town, after being ordered to stop supporting Mr Ali's campaign

Members have discussed backing Reform’s Simon Danczuk, who was previously a Labour MP in the town, after being ordered to stop supporting Mr Ali’s campaign

Mr Galloway, who is also a former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant, is making his latest attempt to win a Westminster seat at a by-election.

Mr Galloway, who is also a former Labour MP and Celebrity Big Brother contestant, is making his latest attempt to win a Westminster seat at a by-election.

Housing minister Lee Rowley accused Labour of ‘going to ground’ after no shadow minister appeared on Tuesday’s morning media round.

Mr Rowley told Sky News: ‘I mean, where is Labour? Where’s Labour today? Talking to people like yourselves, they’re not doing it. They’re going to ground.’

It was put to Mr Rowley that he was on ‘dodgy ground’ accusing another party of going to ground when the Government is ‘not always around’, to which he replied: ‘That is a party which has not changed. It’s a party which will say anything to win government, and I hope people are watching.

‘They’ve got no plan and they’re getting themselves into a real mess over things like this.’

Late last night Labour confirmed it had withdrawn support for the Rochdale by-election candidate ‘following new information’.

The Mail had obtained a full audio tape of his comments during a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party shortly after the October 7 attacks. 

As well as having told the meeting that Israel allowed the massacre to happen so it could wage war on Gaza, Mr Ali apparently also:

  • Blamed ‘people in the media from certain Jewish quarters’ for fuelling criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP;
  • Said Israel planned to ‘get rid of [Palestinians] from Gaza’ and ‘grab’ some of the land;
  • Boasted about preventing Israeli flags being flown from local public buildings after the October 7 attacks.

The new disclosures ramped up pressure on Sir Keir to disown the wannabe MP. In the recording, Mr Ali appeared to blame the media for the suspension of Andy McDonald from the Labour Party. 

Mr McDonald, the MP for Middlesbrough, used the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ last year. The slogan has been described as ‘a staple of anti-Semitic discourse’.

But in the recording, Mr Ali said Mr McDonald ‘shouldn’t have been suspended’ before adding: ‘The media – and some of the people in the media from certain Jewish quarters – were giving crap about what he said.’

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism includes making ‘stereotypical allegations about Jews’ – such as ‘Jews controlling the media’.

Mr Ali’s comments were made at the same meeting in which he said Israel effectively sanctioned the Hamas atrocity against its own people to get the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza.

He later admitted his comments were ‘inexcusable’ and apologised after being confronted by The Mail on Sunday, which first reported the story. 

At the meeting, he also said: ‘Israel has that plan, which is to get rid of [the Palestinians] from Gaza, push them out… 

‘And then they’ve got Gaza to themselves, and you know, they’ll say because the security risks to Israel and the Jewish state, you know, we can’t come back. So we’ve actually said that, in our letter, (this) is about a land grab.’

Mr Ali's (left) comments were made at the same meeting in which he said Israel effectively sanctioned the Hamas atrocity against its own people to get the 'green light' to invade Gaza

Mr Ali’s (left) comments were made at the same meeting in which he said Israel effectively sanctioned the Hamas atrocity against its own people to get the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza

The new disclosures ramped up pressure on Sir Keir to disown the wannabe MP. In the recording, Mr Ali appeared to blame the media for the suspension of Andy McDonald (pictured) from the Labour Party

The new disclosures ramped up pressure on Sir Keir to disown the wannabe MP. In the recording, Mr Ali appeared to blame the media for the suspension of Andy McDonald (pictured) from the Labour Party

Last night Rishi Sunak (pictured) accused Labour of having only dropped Mr Ali 'under media pressure, not because it was the right thing to do'

Last night Rishi Sunak (pictured) accused Labour of having only dropped Mr Ali ‘under media pressure, not because it was the right thing to do’

Last night Rishi Sunak accused Labour of having only dropped Mr Ali ‘under media pressure, not because it was the right thing to do’.

He said Sir Keir’s claims to have changed the Labour Party had proven ‘simply not true’, given that its candidate was caught ‘spreading the vilest racist conspiracy theories about Jews’.

The Prime Minister said on GB News: ‘We’ve just seen over the last few days – Keir Starmer has been running around for the last year telling everybody Labour’s changed – look what just happened in Rochdale.

‘A candidate saying the most vile, awful anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And what happened? He stood by him, sent cabinet ministers to support him. 

‘Until, as apparently five minutes before I walked on tonight, under enormous media pressure, he’s decided to change his mind.

‘That’s not principled, that’s not principled at all. It’s a con.’

The deadline to remove Mr Ali from the ballot paper has passed, leading to the highly unusual situation where Labour cannot replace him as the party’s candidate. 

He will remain on the ballot paper as a Labour candidate, but if he wins, he would sit in the Commons as an independent MP without the whip.

Labour said last night: ‘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.’

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden told the Mail: ‘Sir Keir knew about his racist Labour candidate’s views for days. Still, Sir Keir sent his people out to defend him. 

‘Who knows how long other people in Labour knew about this racist anti-Semitism and said nothing either because they think the same or dared not speak out. It’s not out of principle but only due to pressure that Sir Keir has acted.

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden (pictured) told the Mail: 'Sir Keir knew about his racist Labour candidate's views for days. Still, Sir Keir sent his people out to defend him'

Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden (pictured) told the Mail: ‘Sir Keir knew about his racist Labour candidate’s views for days. Still, Sir Keir sent his people out to defend him’

Before the U-turn, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds (pictured) said he believed Mr Ali had fallen for 'an online conspiracy theory'

Before the U-turn, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds (pictured) said he believed Mr Ali had fallen for ‘an online conspiracy theory’

But Home Secretary James Cleverly (pictured) said: 'I'm not sure 'our candidate believed and repeated a vile and clearly anti-Semitic smear that he saw on the internet' is quite the defence Labour think it is'

But Home Secretary James Cleverly (pictured) said: ‘I’m not sure ‘our candidate believed and repeated a vile and clearly anti-Semitic smear that he saw on the internet’ is quite the defence Labour think it is’

Labour MP Rosie Duffield (pictured) said the party should have withdrawn its support for Mr Ali sooner. She told GB News: 'I think the dithering was quite embarrassing'

Labour MP Rosie Duffield (pictured) said the party should have withdrawn its support for Mr Ali sooner. She told GB News: ‘I think the dithering was quite embarrassing’

‘Starmer is a moral vacuum. Sir Keir has failed to change his party, in fact he’s been defending a racist hoping the outrage went away and only acted when he had no choice.’

A spokesman for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: ‘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. It is the worst of all worlds for Labour.’

Before the U-turn, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds said he believed Mr Ali had fallen for ‘an online conspiracy theory’. 

But Home Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘I’m not sure ‘our candidate believed and repeated a vile and clearly anti-Semitic smear that he saw on the internet’ is quite the defence Labour think it is.’

Labour MP Rosie Duffield said the party should have withdrawn its support for Mr Ali sooner. She told GB News: ‘I think the dithering was quite embarrassing.’

Mr Ali said on Sunday: ‘I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant and false.’



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