‘Shambolic’ Labour accused once again of deep failures on Jew-hate

Activists and politicians take aim at the party over its response to comments about Israel and Jews by two MP hopefuls


'I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community': Labour figures have rowed behind Azhar Ali (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Labour was accused of failing once again on antisemitism this week after it was forced to take action against two MP hopefuls who made shocking comments about Jews and Israel.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is facing serious questions after initially supporting Labour’s Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali even after it emerged he had helped raise millions for an extremist mosque and claimed Israel was partly to blame for October 7.

Ali was eventually dropped as the party’s candidate on Tuesday after further vile comments came to light, including a statement blaming “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for the suspension of Andy McDonald from the Labour Party.

Hours after Labour withdrew support from Ali, allegations emerged that former Labour MP and prospective parliamentary candidate Graham Jones had ranted about “f**king Israel” and that Britons fighting in the IDF “should be locked up”.

Jones was alleged to have made the comments at the same Lancashire gathering where Ali had said Israel “allowed” the Hamas attack on October 7 to get a “green light to do whatever they bloody want”.

The former MP for Hyndburn, Jones had been seeking to be re-elected, but was suspended pending investigation.

Alex Hearn, director of Labour Against Antisemitism, told LBC: “We saw after October 7 that anti-Jewish racism in an Israel setting exploded and there has been a failure to challenge antisemitism surrounding the Israel discussion.

“There is a deeper thing going on and I think the party must not be scared of knowing where the line is.”

Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, claimed the Rochdale “fiasco” had shown “racism towards Jews is not a red line for Labour”.

Mr Dowden tweeted: “The key lesson of Starmer’s Rochdale fiasco is that racism towards Jews is not a red line for Labour.

“A candidate peddling antisemitism was selected and Keir Starmer didn’t disown him because a by-election win was more important. That’s when you find out who someone really is.”

Speaking about Ali, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Not only did members of the Lancashire Labour Parry hear these comments and do nothing at the time, they then went on to select him as their candidate in the by-election.

“This isn’t just about one person, this is about the whole Labour Party.”

Andrew Fisher, a former director of policy for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, told BBC Radio 4 Today: “I think it is shambolic. It is also another thing as well, it reveals a double standard within the Labour Party.”

Writing on X on Sunday, Ali said he apologised “unreservedly” to the Jewish community for his “deeply offensive, ignorant, and false” remarks.

His apology appeared sufficient for a number of Labour MPs and party activists. Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, told Sky News at the time: “He’s issued a complete apology and retraction. And I hope he learns a good lesson from it because he should never have said something like that in the first place.”

Two days later, however, Labour said they would no longer back Ali in the 29 February by-election.

Ali, a local councillor who had been selected by the party to replace veteran MP Tony Lloyd, who died in office earlier this year, had said in a recording obtained by the Mail on Sunday: “The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten days earlier. Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening... They deliberately took the security off, they allowed... that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

In a recording obtained by political website Guido Fawkes, another man alleged to be Jones could be heard at the same meeting saying, “F***ing Israel again, you know, and I’m sure that all of these people think when they go over, but you will not get Israel over the line unless we go at them hard.”

When the man is asked, “Why are there British people in the IDF?” he responds, “I’m going to take this up because we have a simple rule in this country, unless there is a military alliance between that country, NATO or whatever, you should not be fighting.

“No British person should be fighting for any other country at all. It is against the law and you should be locked up.”

Jones was suspended on Tuesday.

Starmer denied claims of “double standards” in Labour’s disciplinary processes. He said: “I set out four years ago to tear antisemitism out of the Labour Party. It’s the first thing I said I’d do as Labour leader, and to change our party. I have taken a series of decisions along those lines, ruthlessly changing our party, and it’s made no difference to me where somebody stands in the party.”

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