The more desperately Labour tried to shore up its conspiracy theory-peddling Rochdale by-election candidate yesterday, the weaker and more pathetically hypocritical the party looked.
So, it was no great shock when the dam burst. Buckling under the weight of overwhelming criticism, Sir Keir Starmer withdrew his support from Azhar Ali.
But serious damage had already been done to the Labour leader’s credibility. He promised to tear anti-Semitism out of the party ‘by its roots’. So why did he even try to defend this man?
Just consider what Mr Ali said. Israel, he claimed, could have prevented the October 7 massacre but deliberately allowed 1,200 of its citizens to be murdered so it would have ‘the green light’ to wage war on Gaza.
Buckling under the weight of overwhelming criticism, Sir Keir Starmer withdrew his support from Azhar Ali
Just consider what Mr Ali (pictured) said. Israel, he claimed, could have prevented the October 7 massacre but deliberately allowed 1,200 of its citizens to be murdered so it would have ‘the green light’ to wage war on Gaza
The Israeli military were warned of the planned attack well in advance, so the twisted narrative goes, but chose not to stop it, cynically sacrificing innocent lives to justify their warmongering.
Cooked up by rabid anti-Semites on the internet, this theory is preposterous and deeply offensive.
Yet Mr Ali was confident enough to spout it at a Lancashire Labour Party meeting – apparently without challenge. He was exposed only after The Mail on Sunday acquired a recording of the meeting. Further extracts in today’s Mail sealed his fate.
They show he also blamed ‘Jewish’ elements in the media for inciting criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP, claimed Israel wanted to depopulate Gaza so it could grab the land and said he didn’t see ‘any difference at all’ between Sir Keir and Rishi Sunak.
But despite this, Labour tried hard to keep him. It’s too late to register another candidate for the Rochdale poll, so they placed pragmatism before principle.
The party line was that Mr Ali had ‘genuinely’ retracted the offending comments. But would he have done so had he not been caught out? Of course not.
And what of all the other Rochdale Labour members who failed to challenge him? At best they are guilty of cowardice, at worst complicity. Perhaps they believed his disgraceful cock-and-bull theories.
But despite this, Labour tried hard to keep him. It’s too late to register another candidate for the Rochdale poll, so they placed pragmatism before principle
The constituency has a large Muslim population, many of whom will be pro-Palestinian and angry with Sir Keir for not supporting an immediate Gaza ceasefire. The craven initial decision not to discipline Mr Ali may have been a bid to appease them and secure their votes.
But the Labour leader can’t have it both ways. Either he has zero tolerance of bigotry, or he doesn’t. He may have cut off the visible stem of anti-Semitism in his party. Below ground, however, this sorry episode shows the roots continue to thrive.
Posturing of the peers
What most Lords have in common is that they had never had to bear the burden of government. Which is why they should take note of former Tory leader and barrister Lord Howard (pictured)
Noble Lords were falling over one another yesterday to scold the Government over its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be assessed. It was unlawful, they said, inhuman, positively un-British.
A proposal to give the United Nations Refugee Agency a veto over removals to Rwanda (meaning none would ever go) was dropped but they are doubtless plotting further blocking measures.
What most have in common is that they had never had to bear the burden of government. Which is why they should take note of former Tory leader and barrister Lord Howard.
A veteran of several Cabinet posts, he reminded the House that in our constitution Parliament is sovereign and its power should not be usurped by the United Nations, European Court of Human Rights, or anyone else.
The Commons passed this legislation in a bid to improve border control and stop migrants drowning.
In trying to wreck it, unelected peers are flouting democracy and playing into the hands of the traffickers.