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Labour antisemitism row deepens as third politician ‘spoken to’ over meeting | Politics News

A third Labour politician attended a meeting of activists at the centre of an antisemitism row within the party, Sky News understands.

Hyndburn councillor Munsif Dad, who leads the local authority’s Labour group, is thought to have been at the gathering where two parliamentary candidates are alleged to have made antisemitic remarks.

On Monday, Labour withdrew support from and suspended Azhar Ali, who is standing under their banner at the upcoming Rochdale by-election, after he allegedly blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for fuelling criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP, and claimed Israel planned to “get rid of [Palestinians] from Gaza” and “grab” some of the land during discussions at the meeting.

Politics latest: Pressure mounts on Starmer

Then on Tuesday, former Labour MP for Hyndburn, Graham Jones – who is seeking to stand for the seat again at the next election – was suspended after allegedly referring to “f***ing Israel” at the same gathering, and saying UK citizens who volunteer to fight for the Israeli Defence Forces “should be locked up”.

Sky News understands Mr Dad has been “spoken to” by Labour officials, but it is not yet clear if he made any contribution to the meeting and no further action has been taken.

Mr Dad and the Labour Party have been contacted for statements.

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Sir Keir calls the decision to withdraw support for Mr Ali a ‘necessary decision’.

Appearing on Sky News’ Breakfast programme, shadow defence secretary John Healy said he “didn’t know” why the councillor had been in attendance at the activist gathering, thought to have taken place in the weeks after 7 October attacks in Israel.

But the Labour MP told Kay Burley: “Where new information or evidence comes to light, as it did with Azhar Ali, as it has with Graham Jones, then the party will act and [Sir] Keir Starmer will act swiftly and decisively to make sure that our candidates and our MPs meet the very highest standards that the public have a right to expect and they deserve.”

Asked if antisemitism was a problem in the Labour Party in 2024, Mr Healey said it was “still a problem throughout our country”, adding: “Wherever there is evidence that there may be antisemitic comments or actions, we will investigate.

“We can’t guarantee that no one connected to the Labour Party will ever express something that is wrong or unacceptable.

“What we can guarantee is that if that happens, we will investigate and when necessary we will take action.”

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The fallout from the meeting – first reported by the Daily Mail and Guido Fawkes – has seen pressure build on Sir Keir, who promised to “tear out antisemitism by its roots” when he took over the Labour Party in 2020.

He has faced criticism for not acting sooner over Mr Ali when on Sunday it was revealed the candidate said Israel deliberately allowed the Hamas atrocity to take place in order to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

Mr Ali, the leader of Lancashire County Council, issued an “unreserved” apology, and shadow cabinet ministers stood by him, claiming the parliamentary hopeful had been taken in by an online conspiracy theory and would work to rebuild trust with the Jewish community.

But when further remarks were published, Sir Keir and the party were forced to act.

The Labour leader told reporters on Tuesday that he had taken “decisive action” when new information came to light, and it was “unprecedented” to ditch a by-election candidate at this late stage.

But it is too late to replace Mr Ali in the Rochdale contest and he will still appear on the ballot paper as the Labour candidate – although the party has said he would be made to sit as an independent if he won the by-election.

Conservative minister Laura Farris told Sky News: “It does actually blow my mind that it took the leader of the Labour Party nearly 72 hours to decide that [Mr Ali’s remarks] were not compatible with becoming the Labour member of parliament, as he would have wished, for Rochdale.”

She also pledged if any antisemitic views were “brought to light” in the Tory Party, they would “act swiftly and decisively”, adding: “There is no room for any sort of unacceptable, discriminatory attitudes. They are completely unacceptable.”

Former Labour MP and government adviser on antisemitism, Lord Mann, warned when it came to the issue, “there will be more to come” from all sides due to “the growth of extremism and the growth antisemitism” in the country.

“I’ve been speaking to the Jewish community constantly and the basic message is, look, leave us alone,” he added. “We’d just like to get on with our lives. Life is bad enough at the moment.

“And the Jewish community, ‘can you just get out of our hair’ is what they’re saying. We’re sick of it. We’re sick of being targeted and you know, it’s happening more and more every day.

“I’m not talking about Labour. I’m talking widely across communities as well. I’m seeing more examples of bad things going on with Jewish people being targeted.”

See below the full list of candidates for the Rochdale by-election and the political parties they represent:

Azhar Ali, (listed as Labour Party, but now removed as its candidate)
Mark Coleman, Independent
Simon Danczuk, Reform UK
Iain Donaldson, Liberal Democrats
Paul Ellison, The Conservative Party Candidate
George Galloway, Workers’ Party of Britain
Michael Howarth, Independent
William Howarth, Independent
Guy Otten, (listed as Green Party, but now removed as its candidate)
Ravin Subortna, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
David Tully, Independent

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