LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party has withdrawn support for its candidate to become a member of parliament in a special election after he was recorded espousing conspiracy theories about Israel.
Labour announced it had withdrawn support for Azhar Ali, its by-election candidate for Rochdale in northern England, after he suggested Israel had relaxed its security in run up to the attack by Hamas last year to provide grounds to invade Gaza.
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A spokesperson for Labour said that the party had withdrawn support for Ali, and it will not be able to find another candidate because the deadline has passed to replace him.
“We understand that these are highly unusual circumstances but it is vital that any candidate put forward by Labour fully represents its aims and values,” the spokesperson said.
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Ali said that the United States had warned Israel a day before that an attack was planned by Hamas and they “deliberately took the security off” so they would have the opportunity to “do whatever they bloody want”, according to a recording reported in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Israel launched its offensive on Gaza after Hamas militants stormed the country on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, and taking about 250 hostage, according to Israeli officials.
Ali apologised for the comments on Sunday, which he said were “deeply offensive, ignorant, and false”.
The Rochdale by-election will take place on Feb. 29 to replace its member of parliament after a Labour politician died last month.
Labour, which polls indicate is likely to form Britain’s next government after a general election expected in the second half of this year, faced accusations that some within its ranks discriminated against and harassed Jews under its former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn himself was suspended and blocked from standing as a Labour candidate at the upcoming election after claiming allegations of antisemitism in the party during his leadership had been “dramatically overstated” for political reasons.
Britain’s equalities watchdog said last year the Labour Party had made sufficient changes in recent years to tackle antisemitism.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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