The Labour leader will find it hard to deny that he tolerated anti-Semitism for short-term electoral gain
Consider the decidedly odd sequence of political events in the last 48 hours or so.
Over the weekend, it emerged that Azhar Ali, Labour’s candidate (for so he remains, at least legally) in the Rochdale by-election, was revealed as the pedlar of what many would view as bizarre, offensive and anti-Semitic smears against Israel. Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israeli citizens on October 7, Ali told a Labour Party meeting last year, had been known in advance to the Israeli authorities, who wanted it to go ahead regardless in order to justify their eagerness to attack Gaza.
By the time the comments were made public, however, nominations in the contest had closed and Ali could no longer be replaced as Labour’s standard bearer. This was awkward for Keir Starmer, who has, after all, made it one of his defining missions to ensure Labour is a welcoming place for Jews after the grim Corbyn years.
Yesterday morning, with Ali’s actions known, Starmer’s party approved his continuance as Labour candidate. Yes, Ali had proven himself unfit to serve as an MP. Yes, he appeared to represent everything Starmer had sought to cleanse from the party – a narrow-minded bigotry based on fake history and fake news that is repellent to Jewish and non-Jewish voters alike. Even Councillor Ali himself, in an apology which might never have been made without the exposure of his comments in the first place, described them as “inexcusable”. But still, the Leader of the Opposition backed him. Ali would continue to receive staff, financial, organisational support from the Party.
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