Azhar Ali: who is the Rochdale by-election candidate and political career as Labour withdraw support

The Labour candidate for the upcoming election has lost support of his party
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The Labour candidate for the upcoming Rochdale by-election has had support removed from his party. Azhar Ali will not be backed by Labour as a result of comments he made in relation to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

A report in the Mail on Sunday suggested that Mr Ali told a Lancashire Labour Party meeting that Israel had deliberately allowed the Hamas atrocities to happen in order to get a ‘green light’ to invade Gaza. Following this, he apologised for the “deeply offensive, ignorant and false " comments.  

He said: “October 7th was the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust, and Jews in the UK and across the world are living in fear of rising antisemitism. I will urgently apologise to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments.”

What were the ‘further comments’ that led to the Labour party withdrawing support? 

The publication then published further comments which suggested that Mr Ali said that “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters" were to blame for Labour MP Andy McDonald being suspended from the party. 

Mr McDonald was suspended from the party in 2023 after saying: "We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty."

What has the Labour Party said? 

This led the Labour Party to make the decision to remove their support for Mr Ali in the upcoming by-election. A Labour Party spokesperson said: "Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election. 

“Keir Starmer has changed Labour so that it is unrecognisable from the party of 2019. 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. Given that nominations have now closed, Azhar Ali cannot be replaced as the candidate."

Azhar Ali’s political career 

Labour by-election candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali, who has apologised for his 'deeply offensive' comments after he reportedly said Israel allowed Hamas to carry out its October 7 attack to provide grounds to invade Gaza. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA WireLabour by-election candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali, who has apologised for his 'deeply offensive' comments after he reportedly said Israel allowed Hamas to carry out its October 7 attack to provide grounds to invade Gaza. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Labour by-election candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali, who has apologised for his 'deeply offensive' comments after he reportedly said Israel allowed Hamas to carry out its October 7 attack to provide grounds to invade Gaza. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Mr Ali has been a notable figure in North West politics for many years. He is currently a councillor on Lancashire County Council, and has represented Nelson East since 2013. 

He also has previous experience of running in General Elections. In both 2015 and 2019, he was the Labour candidate in Pendle- a seat which has been held by the Conservatives since 2010.  

When is the Rochdale by-election and who are the candidates? 

Mr Ali will be one of 11 candidates vying for election in Rochdale on February 29. The full list of candidates is below: 

  • Azhar Ali, Labour Party
  • Mark Coleman
  • Simon Danczuk, Reform UK
  • Iain Donaldson, Liberal Democrats
  • Paul Ellison, The Conservative Party Candidate
  • George Galloway, Workers Party of Britain
  • Michael Howarth
  • William Howarth, Independent
  • Guy Otten, Green Party
  • Ravin Subortna, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
  • David Tully, Independent