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Labour defends candidate for Rochdale by-election following criticism of Israel

A LABOUR frontbencher insisted today that it would be “unfair” to conclude that there was a problem with the party in Rochdale following remarks about Israel made by its constituency candidate.

Nick Thomas-Symonds became the latest Labour shadow minister to defend Azhar Ali, who said Israel had allowed Hamas to inflict its October 7 attack despite its intelligence showing it was imminent, saying he had fallen “for an online conspiracy theory.”

In the past, the party has been quick to suspend MPs for making pro-Palestinian comments, one example being Kate Osamor, who said Gaza victims of genocide should also be remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Ali has apologised after he was recorded at a meeting of Lancashire Labour Party suggesting that Israel had taken the assault as a pretext to invade Gaza.

Commenting on why the Rochdale candidate has not been suspended, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “Councillor Ali has apologised unreservedly.

“He’s retracted those remarks and he’s also shown a sense of the gravity of the offence…”

The deadline to remove Mr Ali from the ballot paper has now passed. The party could withdraw campaign support, but that could affect the outcome of the by-election.

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