Rochdale Candidate Azhar Ali Suspended But Can Still Run for Seat

Labour’s Rochdale candidate, Azhar Ali,  has sparked a political firestorm with his remarks on Israel and Jewish media figures. This led to his suspension and raising questions about Labour’s handling of disciplinary actions. Here’s the full story.

They Think It’s All Over

As the current Conservative Government continues to disintegrate into a series of squabbling factions, each attempting to one-up the other for the title of the one true conservative, it seems as if the Labour Party, the government’s official opposition, has an easy path to victory in the upcoming election later this year. 

However, if there is one thing the Labour Party excels at, it is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The latest controversy surrounding the party is another such example. 

Sparking the Controversy

The controversy began with remarks by the Labour Party’s candidate for the Rochdale byelection, Azhar Ali.

Ali made comments in which he claimed that the deadly attacks by Hamas on Israel on 7th October had been allowed to happen by the Israeli government, which they then used as a pretext to invade and occupy Gaza. 

Ali’s initial comments led to a barrage of criticism from both inside and outside the Labour party, which led to him issuing an apology. 

Despite the political uproar, Labour supported Ali as their candidate for the Rochdale byelection. However, the situation changed when additional comments from Ali surfaced, in which he allegedly blamed Jewish media figures for criticizing a pro-Palestinian Labour MP.

Step Too Far

Ali’s alleged peddling of a deeply anti-semitic conspiracy theory was a step too far, and Labour decided to take action, suspending Ali pending an investigation. 

Despite the suspension, Labour continued to take criticism from its political rivals and activist groups. As the outrage grew, Labour ultimately withdrew its support for Ali even though, under British electoral law, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot so therefore, in theory, he could still win. 

Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, defended what many saw as a sluggish response to the crisis. At an event in Wellingborough, where a concurrent byelection is to be held on Thursday, Starmer insisted his course of action was right. 

Decisive Action

Starmer stated, “Certain information came to light over the weekend in relation to the candidate [and] there was a fulsome apology. Further information came to light yesterday calling for decisive action, so I took decisive action.”

He went on to say: “It is a huge thing to withdraw support for a Labour candidate during the course of a byelection. It’s a tough decision, a necessary decision, but when I say the Labour Party has changed under my leadership, I mean it.”

Anti-Semitism Factions

The Labour Party was descending into its own factional infighting in the run-up to the byelections. Some within the party praised Starmer for his swift and decisive action, citing the need to combat antisemitism within their ranks. 

However, others within the Labour Party criticised Starmer for a perceived disparity in treatment between Ali and other suspended party members, particularly those from within the factions within Labour further to the left of Starmer. 


Some in the party claimed that accusations of antisemitism were being weaponized against Labour. 

Martin Forde, who helped with the review of the party’s allegations of bullying and racism, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that left-wing Labour MPs saw “that when it comes to disciplinary action taken against them then things move rather slowly, but if you’re in the right faction of the party, as it were, then things are dealt with either more leniently or more swiftly.”

Doesn’t Look Good

The return of factional infighting does not bode well for Labour, coming as it does so close to two pivotal byelections. Despite Labour’s eventual withdrawal of support for Ali, the dynamics of the race have shifted, as voters are left to reconsider their options after Labour effectively surrendered the seat. 

With Ali no longer backed by Labour, other candidates vying for the Rochdale seat, including former Labour MP Simon Danczuk and George Galloway of the Workers Party of Britain, have stepped up their campaigns to claim victory.

Severe Challenges

The shambolic handling of the furore around Ali’s candidacy and the controversy created by his comments have further underscored the severe challenges the Labour Party faces in its attempt to navigate sensitive issues such as antisemitism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

With the byelection date inching ever closer and serious questions remaining over the effectiveness of Starmer’s leadership following the controversy, the aftershocks continue reverberating within the Labour Party.

With many inside and outside the party looking to the byelections as precursors to the upcoming election later this year, the party’s apparent inability to cross the finish line after leading the race is worrying many Labor supporters. At the same time, their political opponents are all too happy to watch the party devolve into political infighting. 

For Labour to successfully weather this storm, strong leadership is needed from Starmer to hold the party together. Whether he is up to the task remains to be seen.

The post Rochdale Candidate Azhar Ali Suspended But Can Still Run for Seat first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Victoria M Gardner.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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