Labour suspend Azhar Ali. The Rochdale by-election Shock occurred just as Rishi Sunak walked on stage to face questions on GB News. Labour announce that they have withdrawn their support for Azhar Ali, their Rochdale by election candidate, on February 29th 2024.

In Rochdale the green candidate had already been withdrawn following his anti Islam statements that came to light. Now, following the release of recordings of anti-semitic comments the Labour candidate Azhar Ali has been forced to withdraw.

The names of both withdrawn candidates will still appear on the ballot papers. They can still be voted for because the ballot papers have already been printed.

What the electorate decide on polling day will be fascinating to watch. Potentially Azhar Ali could still be elected as an independent MP. Alternatively, this withdrawal may push the Labour vote towards George Galloway.

Reform UK candidate Simon Danczuk is in a good position to do very well in Rochdale.

Following the attrocities commited in Israel by Hamas on October 7th 2023, the Labour candidate stated an opinion that Israel enabled the attack as an excuse to be able to attach Hamas in Gaza. This was recorded at a meeting in the constituency and later released to the press. Additional comments have since also come to light. The labour leadership were given little choice other than to belatedly withdraw their support.

Rochdale By Election

The outcome of the by-election in Rochdale will be an interesting one. Two candidates having been withdrawn but still being on the ballot paper.

If Mr Ali receives a large share of the vote, what does it say about the state of politics in the UK? What does it say about anti-semitism in the UK?

The outcome of the election will not be known until the 29th February. What is becoming clear is that Keir Starmer has not eradicated anti-semitism within the party.

The issue is that many of the same party members, councillors, and MPs still remain in the party. Some at least are unlikely to have changed their fundamental beliefs however repugnant those beliefs might be considered to be.

Other Labour members, ex MPs & candidates have become embroiled in the anti-semitism scandal. Graham Jones, who was hoping to be the party candidate for the Hyndburn constituency made remarks at the same Labour meeting as Azhar Ali. Consequently Mr Jones was suspended from the party  on Tuesday.

Are these two suspensions the end of the matter? It seems unlikely at this stage with ongoing internal enquiries yet to report on their findings.