Starmer finally gives up on Rochdale candidate – but is the damage already done?

Azhar Ali and Keir Starmer: the political damage to Labour’s leader of one of his supporters being accused of anti-Semitism, coupled with his own reluctance to suspend that person’s party membership, could be worse than any result in the Rochdale by-election.

Labour has finally suspended the party membership of Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali, after the Daily Mail contacted the party with more allegations about him.

Mr Ali was already in trouble for claiming (correctly) that Egypt had said it had warned Israel of the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack well in advance, and (without evidence) that Israel had allowed it to happen in order to have an excuse for its current genocide in Gaza.

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Mail story published on Monday (February 12) added that

Ali said “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” were “giving crap” about Andy McDonald, who was suspended by Labour after he used the controversial phrase “between the river and the sea” in a speech during a rally.

The paper also said the now-former Labour candidate claimed that Israel planned to “get rid of [Palestinians] from Gaza” and “grab” some of the land. It is thought he made the comments at the same meeting as the original story.

There was nothing wrong with Mr McDonald’s use of the words “between the river and the sea”, as has been discussed on This Site previously, and the idea that Israel wants to clear Gaza of Palestinians and grab the land is now widely-held, in the light of the genocide there.

It’s probably that the offending words were “certain Jewish quarters” which, coupled with his other remarks, may give some people cause to believe his comments were anti-Semitic.

The controversy has turned the Rochdale by-election into yet another discussion of anti-Semitism in UK politics – much to the disgust of some commentators:

This Writer can only conclude that the use of the hashtag at the end of the post above is sarcastic – a comment on the issue of possible anti-Semitism by one candidate taking precedence over any discussion of the real needs of Rochdale and/or the UK as a whole.

We can check this against the words of those who have been asked to comment on it. Does Lord Mann discuss the political issues facing Rochdale and the UK?


Louise Ellman? No. And look – someone has followed her interview clip with one of Keir Starmer protesting that he would have a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism, with a laugh track added to his words. You may ask yourself why…

It’s because Azhar Ali is a Starmerite – a member of the current Labour leader’s loyalists within the party. Considering the allegations against him, this would be enough to make anybody in Starmer’s position a laughing-stock, from certain viewpoints.

Here’s one of them: Ash Sarkar, on LBC, telling Nick Ferrari that the process Starmer was describing (to laughter, above) is not fit for purpose because he used it for petty factional vendettas rather than fair investigations of facts, and claiming that it took him considerably longer to be forced to give Mr Ali up, simply because he was a member of Starmer’s faction within Labour.

But the buck won’t stop with Mr Ali – or it shouldn’t:

Good question!

Even Ed Balls can’t help but admit that Ali is a Starmerite – although he does still manage to get a dig in at Jeremy Corbyn in this short clip:

Factual background information now: the following quotes the New York Times which claimed Israel had been given a whole year’s foreknowledge of the October 7 attack:

So: commenting on this claim can’t be anti-Semitic in itself as there is evidence to support it.

Apparently it is the criticism of the Israeli government that failed to act that is anti-Semitic. But there’s a problem with that, which is that commentators have been eager to conflate it with wider attacks:

Why would the pundits on Newsnight claim any criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic? This Writer can only conclude that it is to whitewash the genocide that Benjamin Netanyahu is carrying out in Gaza; if any criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic, then it is anti-Semitic to condemn the genocide.

I don’t think that will wash.

Others have been desperate to whitewash Starmer. Robert Peston’s ‘X’ post defies belief – and I urge you to click on it in order to read it in full before moving on to the response:

Add it all up and it is clear that Starmer and his own regime will have serious questions to answer and the repercussions may continue, right up until the general election.

So the question below – whether Labour is distancing itself from a probable defeat – is probably academic. The real issue is where Labour voters will go. Is Ken Burch (below) correct?

Certainly The Guardian has said

a local Labour insider said that some activists would seriously consider throwing their support behind Simon Danczuk, the disgraced former Labour MP for Rochdale who was suspended from the party after sending inappropriate messages to a teenager.

But supporting someone with such a record would create a stink of its own – and the paper also admits that

[George] Galloway, who is concentrating on Rochdale’s sizeable Pakistani and Kashmiri Muslim community for votes, is expected to benefit from the row, with some local activists saying that Ali’s suspension makes him favourite to win on 29 February.

If Galloway is the front-runner now, then the wisest thing he can do is concentrate on policy issues.

He could win thousands of votes by talking about what he thinks Rochdale needs, while his competitors are still wittering about anti-Semitism.

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  1. Growing Flame February 14, 2024 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Why would George Galloway be such a poor choice? Tribal Labourites can think of lots of – very good – reasons for seeing him as somehow awful. But I would ask them to study the kind of people that Starmer prefers. And their policies!
    Not such a poor choice after all, maybe?

    • Mike Sivier February 14, 2024 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      In comparison with the rest of the crowd – and not including some of the Independents whose policies I don’t know – George Galloway seems to be the ONLY choice worth having.

    • Martin Odoni February 15, 2024 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Galloway has a recent history of endorsing EDL scaremongering i.e. blaming unemployment among white Britons on immigration. He’s not exactly 100% clean vis a vis racial politics.

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