More controversy has engulfed the Labour Party after a second parliamentary candidate has been suspended for anti-Israel comments.
Graham Jones, a former Labour MP, has been “administratively suspended” from the party after audio emerged appearing to show he said “fucking Israel”, while also allegedly suggesting that British people who volunteer to fight with the Israeli Defence Forces should be “locked up”.
The Hyndburn candidate’s remarks reportedly happened at the same private meeting of Labour activists, in Lancashire in October, that led to the withdrawal of the party’s support for Azhar Ali, who is standing in Rochdale.
Labour would have to follow a formal process if the party wanted to strip Jones of his candidacy, but PA News reported he is believed to have been called for an interview on Tuesday evening.
The Jewish Labour Movement said Jones’ alleged comments were “appalling and unacceptable”.
The report by the Guido Fawkes website came soon after Keir Starmer said he was “decisive” in withdrawing support for Ali, despite the party having initially stood by him.
Ali had said Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 people to be killed on its own soil on October 7.
The Mail on Sunday reported Ali said Israel did so in order to give the “green light” to invade of Gaza, when at the meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party.
Labour stood by Ali after he apologised for his “inexcusable comments”. But on Monday night the position changed and the party withdrew its support ahead of more comments being published.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Starmer said: “Certain information came to light over the weekend in relation to the candidate.
“There was a fulsome apology. Further information came to light yesterday calling for decisive action, so I took decisive action.”
The Labour leader added: “It is a huge thing to withdraw support for a Labour candidate during the course of a by-election.
“It’s a tough decision, a necessary decision. But when I say the Labour party has changed under my leadership, I mean it.”
Martin Forde, the lawyer tasked by Starmer in 2020 to conduct an inquiry into allegations of racism within Labour, this morning condemned the “shambolic” handling of the “clearly anti-Semitic” incident.
It is too late for Labour to remove Ali as their candidate and replace him with someone else as the deadline passed on February 2.
Ali is likely to remain the Labour candidate on the ballot paper but the party will not campaign at all.