Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali should be suspended now and told he cannot stand for the party in any future election
: Peter Byrne/PA
The Rochdale by-election is becoming a nightmare for Labour who, until now, assumed it was going to stroll to victory. Instead of being a straightforward contest, it threatens to undermine fatally Keir Starmer’s campaign to remove the stain of anti-Semitism from his party.
Worse, it has exposed the utter hypocrisy and double standards embedded within the Labour Party’s culture.
Councillor Azhar Ali, the Labour candidate chosen to fight the seat previously held by the late veteran Labour MP Tony Lloyd, has been caught red-handed sharing a vile and intelligence-insulting conspiracy theory, namely that Israeli authorities knew in advance that Hamas were going to carry out its attack on the country’s southern border on October 7, but allowed it to go ahead in order to justify its subsequent attack on Gaza.
To believe in such a fanciful theory is bad enough, and suggests that Ali doesn’t have the basic intelligence or common sense to represent anyone, at council level, let alone in parliament. That he chose to share this mad theory with fellow Labour activists and that none of them subsequently raised any concerns with the party hierarchy also says something very ugly about Labour in 2024.
Nominations for the contest are now closed, so Labour no longer has the option to remove their candidate and replace him with a more sensible option. Yet there is a recent precedent for taking action against a candidate after the close of nominations, and it is a precedent that heaps even more difficulties on the party leadership.
Laura Pascal was suspended as a Labour candidate in a council by-election in Hackney last month. Her crime? Stating her belief in the biological reality of sex, as opposed to gender ideology. Such comments aren’t even contrary to anything in the Labour Party rulebook, but she was suspended anyway at the behest of trans activists and told that if she won the contest (which she was expected to do), she would have to sit in the council as an independent, pending the conclusion of an internal inquiry into her ThoughtCrime.
The day before polling, following an apology from Pascal, her suspension was lifted. But Labour lost the ensuing by-election anyway – heavily – to the Conservatives.
Councillor Ali, on being confronted with the fact that his views were about to be reported in a national newspaper, also apologised. But the contrast between his own fate and that of Pascal, says many uncomfortable things about how Labour views Hamas terrorism, versus those who dare to suggest that biological sex matters, especially when it comes to women’s rights.
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