14 Feb 2024

Dame Louise Ellman: Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali’s comments ‘seem to be out of character’ but ‘completely unacceptable’

It was expected to be a tough week for Rishi Sunak. But it’s turning out to be a troubled week for the Labour leader instead.

Sir Keir Starmer has had to suspend two parliamentary candidates over remarks they made about Israel. Azhar Ali has apologised for suggesting at a meeting that Israel had allowed the Hamas assault, as a pretext to invade Gaza.

But Labour pulled its backing for him after further comments emerged – leaving them without a candidate in the Rochdale by-election.

Earlier I spoke to Dame Louise Ellman, a former Labour MP who left the party over alleged antisemitism when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

When the Rochdale story broke she issued a statement on social media saying she’d known the candidate Azhar Ali for over twenty years as an ally and while she was appalled by his comments he should have the opportunity to work with the Jewish community to restore trust. I asked her why she’d said that.