A Labour frontbencher has defended his party’s decision not to suspend its Rochdale by-election candidate after he claimed Israel allowed the Oct 7 attacks to take place.
Sir Keir Starmer has faced growing pressure to cut ties with Azhar Ali after the aspiring MP accused the Israelis of letting Hamas massacre 1,200 of its people in order to get the “green light” to attack Gaza.
But Labour is set to continue its campaigning as normal ahead of the vote on Feb 29 and it is too late for Mr Ali to be removed from the ballot because nominations have closed.
Asked why the party had not suspended its candidate, Nick Thomas-Symonds, a shadow minister, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Firstly, let me say that the remarks that have been made are completely and utterly unacceptable. I was very shocked and appalled to see them and they in no way represent the views of the Labour Party.
“Cllr Ali has then apologised unreservedly, he has retracted those remarks and he has also shown a sense of the gravity of the offence that has been caused and the need to do now tremendous amounts of work to rebuild trust with the Jewish community which is going to be absolutely essential.
“So it is for those reasons that he hasn’t been suspended, and why we will now continue with this campaign in Rochdale ahead of the by-election on Feb 29.”