Advertisement

Is this Sir Keir Starmer’s biggest crisis as Labour leader? ...The Standard podcast

 (PA)
(PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s judgement has come under fire over a delay in withdrawing his party’s support for its Rochdale by-election candidate, Azhar Ali, over remarks he made about Israel.

Mr Ali has since apologised after it was revealed he was recorded in a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party, suggesting that Israel had taken the October 7th Hamas assault - which killed more than 1200 citizens - as a pretext to invade Gaza.

The story was broken by the Mail on Sunday - and over the next 24 hours Labour stuck by Mr Ali despite the deeply controversial remarks. But, on Monday evening, Labour finally cut ties with Mr Ali, who is understood to have also been suspended from the party pending an investigation.

Speaking as he campaigned in Wellingborough on Tuesday, Sir Keir 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.

"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."

It comes as The Standard reveals Labour faces a “brutal” battle in the party’s new London heartlands amid growing “movement” of local independent candidates enraged at the response to Gaza - with shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting’s Ilford North seat top of the list of targets.

The Standard’s chief political correspondent, Rachael Burford, shares her analysis.

Listen above, or wherever you find your podcasts.