Labour‘s by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, has said sorry for his “deeply offensive” remarks. He had reportedly claimed that Israel allowed Hamas to launch an attack on October 7 as a pretext to invade Gaza. It was reported that Mr Ali made these comments at a Lancashire Labour Party meeting.
Mr Ali was quoted saying: “The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel 10 days earlier … Americans warned them a day before (that) there’s something happening.”
He added, “They deliberately took the security off, they allowed … that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”
Hamas attacked southern Israel last year on October 7, leading to the death of 1,300 people and over 240 kidnappings. In response, Israel launched several months of attacks on the Gaza Strip, causing thousands of casualties.
Mr Ali also reportedly stated that some MPs had lost confidence in Sir Keir Starmer over this issue. Despite the controversy, Mr Ali remains Labour’s candidate for the Rochdale by-election, which was called following the death of MP Sir Tony Lloyd.
Mr Ali, who is a Lancashire county councillor and former Government adviser, apologised for his comments. He said: “I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant and false.
“Hamas’s horrific terror attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone, and they are still holding hostages who must be released.
“October 7 was the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust, and Jews in the UK and across the world are living in fear of rising antisemitism. I will urgently apologise to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments.
“The Labour Party has changed unrecognisably under Keir Starmer‘s leadership, he has my full support in delivering the change Britain needs.”
Pat McFadden MP, national campaign co-ordinator for Labour, remarked that Mr Ali’s comments were “completely wrong”. He shared on Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips: “He should never have said something like that.”
“It is, of course, completely wrong to say that. I saw this last night, 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.
When asked if Mr Ali will be Labour’s candidate for the by-election, Mr McFadden confirmed with a simple: “Yes he will”.
Also in the running are George Galloway of the Workers Party of Britain, who opposes Labour’s position on the Gaza conflict, and ex-Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk, now standing for the Reform Party.
Around a fifth of the town’s voters and nearly a third of its population are Asian, with national polls hinting that Labour could lose votes from those unhappy with the party’s perceived stance on Palestine and Israel.
The death toll in Palestine has reached nearly 28,000 after four months of conflict, say health officials in Gaza.
In the last election in 2019, Sir Tony secured the seat for Labour with a majority of 9,668 over the Tories.
The polling stations will open on February 29.