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Labour trying to limit antisemitism row

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Labour trying to limit antisemitism row

An issue involving former MP and current candidate Graham Jones has arisen, just a day before two crucial by-elections

Labour is trying to limit the damage of the latest antisemitism row in the party just 24 hours before voting begins in two crucial by-elections.

Former Labour MP Graham Jones is understood to have been administratively suspended from the party pending an investigation after audio emerged of him using the words “f****** Israel” during a meeting.

He also allegedly suggested that British people who volunteer to fight with the Israeli Defence Forces should be “locked up”.

Labour would have to follow a formal process if the party wanted to drop Mr Jones as candidate for Hyndburn at the next general election, but he is believed to have attended an interview on Tuesday evening.

It comes after Labour withdrew support for the party’s candidate for the Rochdale by-election, Azhar Ali, for apparently making antisemitic remarks at the same meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party.

Voting begins at 7am on Thursday in by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood, and the controversy may damage Labour’s chance of gaining two seats won by the Conservatives at the last general election

The latest row came hours after Sir Keir Starmer insisted the party had changed under his leadership.

He moved to strip Mr Ali, who is believed to be suspended pending an investigation, of Labour’s backing.

Mr Ali apologised after he was recorded in the meeting claiming that Israel had taken the October 7 Hamas assault as a pretext to invade Gaza.

But Labour said it moved to end its backing of the candidate “following new information about further comments”.

Labour came under serious pressure after the original remarks emerged, with the comments condemned by figures inside the party as well as by political opponents.

Sir Keir has sought to move his party on from the Jeremy Corbyn era, which was overshadowed by controversies over antisemitism.

But the party leadership is being pressed on why Mr Ali was not suspended immediately after the comments emerged.

Voters also go to the polls in the Rochdale by-election at the end of the month.

Also running in Rochdale are former Labour MPs Simon Danczuk, now the Reform Party candidate, and George Galloway, of the Workers Party of Britain, who is campaigning against Labour’s stance on Gaza.

Mike Gapes, former MP for Ilford South, quit Labour over antisemitism under Mr Corbyn’s leadership and only recently rejoined.

He told Times Radio on Tuesday evening he would not have done so if was not convinced that Sir Keir and the Labour leadership were serious about rooting out antisemitism.

“But there are legacy problems, and there are individuals who perhaps, because of this particularly inflamed situation around Gaza, are saying things and behaving in ways which are clearly inappropriate, and in some cases totally deplorable antisemitism. And that has to be continually rooted out,” he said.

“And if there are people, whoever they are, at whatever level in the Labour Party, who make those kind of remarks, then they they should be suspended and they should not be candidates.”

Mr Gapes said he did not think the row would affect Thursday’s by-elections, and was “pretty confident” Labour was on course to win the next general election.

“I think there are local factors in this situation, with the Rochdale by-election, which clearly Labour will now not win the seat.

“Labour’s effectively given up the seat by suspending its candidate. And that is pretty unprecedented.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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