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Azhar Ali made his Gaza views ‘loud and clear’ to Sir Keir Starmer BEFORE the storm erupted over his comments and Labour dropped him


The Labour by-election candidate disowned by Sir Keir Starmer in a row over the Gaza conflict had made his views ‘loud and clear’ to his party leader before the political storm erupted.

Sir Keir was engulfed in a week-long row after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Azhar Ali, picked to stand for the party in the Rochdale by-election on February 29, had told a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party that Israel ‘allowed’ the Hamas attacks of October 7 to happen – so the country would have a ‘green light to do whatever they bloody want’.

Labour initially tried to hold the line by publishing a statement from Mr Ali in which he apologised ‘unreservedly’ for his words. The party then executed a panicked U-turn after further offensive remarks from the meeting were published by the Daily Mail.

Mr Ali pictured for the first time since the fallout over his claims about Israel

Mr Ali pictured for the first time since the fallout over his claims about Israel

Mr Ali is said to have spoken to Sir Keir Starmer about his views on Gaza within the first few weeks of the conflict

Mr Ali is said to have spoken to Sir Keir Starmer about his views on Gaza within the first few weeks of the conflict

Sir Keir was engulfed in a week-long row after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Azhar Ali's comments about Israel

Sir Keir was engulfed in a week-long row after The Mail on Sunday revealed that Azhar Ali’s comments about Israel

It is too late for Labour to remove Mr Ali from the ballot paper, so he will still stand as its candidate. But if elected, he will be denied the whip and have to sit as an independent MP.

Shortly before the furore, Mr Ali, the leader of the Labour group on Lancashire County Council, spoke to this newspaper about his views on Palestine, revealing that he had urged Sir Keir to call for an immediate ceasefire in the region.

According to Mr Ali, Sir Keir rang him ‘in the first few weeks after the Gaza conflict’ to ask: ‘What are your concerns?’

Mr Ali said: ‘I raised those very issues, about a ceasefire, about humanitarian aid, and he heard me loud and clear.’

Allies of the Labour leader say that their conversation did not go beyond a discussion of a ceasefire.

After the storm blew up Mr Ali went to ground but he was finally spotted near his home yesterday. The row also led to the suspension of Graham Jones, Labour’s General Election candidate in the Lancashire seat of Hyndburn. It emerged that Mr Jones had told the same meeting that British citizens fighting for the Israel Defence Forces should be jailed.

The official Labour position is that Sir Keir and his deputy Angela Rayner agreed about how to deal with Mr Ali’s comments. However, party sources are now trying to distance Sir Keir from the affair by claiming that the initial decision to stand by Mr Ali was driven by Ms Rayner, whose Ashton-under-Lyne constituency is a short drive from his base in Nelson, near Burnley.

After the storm blew up Mr Ali went to ground but he was finally spotted near his home yesterday

After the storm blew up Mr Ali went to ground but he was finally spotted near his home yesterday

Azhar Ali was picked to stand for the party in the Rochdale by-election

Azhar Ali was picked to stand for the party in the Rochdale by-election

The row also led to the suspension of Graham Jones (pictured), Labour's General Election candidate in the Lancashire seat of Hyndburn

The row also led to the suspension of Graham Jones (pictured), Labour’s General Election candidate in the Lancashire seat of Hyndburn

Last week The Times newspaper reported that ‘a couple of years ago’ Mr Ali ‘is said to have joined a party of northern bigwigs who helped to decorate Angela Rayner’s house’.

The MoS has also been told that Ms Rayner lobbied for Mr Ali to secure the Rochdale nomination ahead of rivals including Paul Waugh, a political journalist for the i newspaper. 

According to a source: ‘Angela was telephoning party members saying that Ali should get the nomination. 

‘The selection process gave Waugh just 48 hours between being given the local party membership list and the selection meeting – which we have been told included party members who had not paid their membership fee for months in protest over Gaza. So they shouldn’t have had a vote.

Mr Ali said: 'I raised those very issues, about a ceasefire, about humanitarian aid, and he heard me loud and clear'

Mr Ali said: ‘I raised those very issues, about a ceasefire, about humanitarian aid, and he heard me loud and clear’

‘But this is not the only example of where regional Labour Party staff in the North West are driving a coach and horses through the rulebook and deliberately interfering to get their preferred candidate selected.’

The source added: ‘The North-West mafia ran the operation to try to save Ali, not Keir’s London team. 

‘They testified to his good character, and said he was guilty of nothing more than idiocy. They did not want [George] Galloway [standing in opposition to Sir Keir’s position on the war] to run away with the contest’.

Approached yesterday by the MoS, Mr Ali refused to comment.



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