Labour investigating councillor who appeared to campaign for Azhar Ali in Rochdale

Labour is investigating one of its councillors, Mohammed Iqbal, after a video emerged in which he appeared to be campaigning for Azhar Ali in Rochdale
Labour is investigating one of its councillors, Mohammed Iqbal, after a video emerged in which he appeared to be campaigning for Azhar Ali in Rochdale - Facebook

Labour is investigating one of its councillors after a video emerged in which he appeared to be campaigning for Azhar Ali, who was suspended from the party over anti-Semitic comments.

Mohammed Iqbal, a councillor in Pendle, was filmed wearing a red rosette in the company of Mr Ali outside a polling station on the day of the Rochdale by-election.

Mr Iqbal had himself previously been suspended from Labour - and then subsequently re-admitted - for drawing parallels between Israel and the Nazis.

Mr Ali was selected by Labour to contest the Greater Manchester seat after a by-election was triggered by the death of Sir Tony Lloyd.

However, Labour was later forced to withdraw all support from Mr Ali’s campaign after a recording emerged of him claiming Israel had “allowed” the October 7 Hamas attack and railing against “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters”.

Azhar Ali, who was suspended from Labour over anti-Semitic comments
Azhar Ali, who was suspended from Labour over anti-Semitic comments - Azhar Ali, who was suspended from Labour over anti-Semitic comments/Getty

The by-election was subsequently won by George Galloway, representing the Workers Party of Britain.

Despite the decision to suspend Mr Ali and withdraw support, Mr Iqbal appeared to be caught on camera campaigning for him in Labour colours on the day of the election.

In an ITV News interview with Mr Ali outside a polling station on Thursday, Mr Iqbal is seen passing behind Mr Ali wearing a red rosette.

When The Telegraph contacted Mr Iqbal, he initially said he would not comment until he had seen the video. Asked whether he was in Rochdale with Mr Ali on the day of the election, he said: “I’m not going to make any comment on that.”

Mr Iqbal was sent a clip of the video, but then failed to respond to further requests for comment.

Labour on Saturday confirmed it was carrying out an investigation into the councillor.

Mr Iqbal was suspended from Labour in June 2022 for controversial comments made during a council debate on whether to fly the Palestinian flag above the local town hall.

The by-election was won by George Galloway, representing the Workers Party of Britain
The by-election was won by George Galloway, representing the Workers Party of Britain - Christopher Furlong/Getty

During the debate, Mr Iqbal said: “What’s going on in Ukraine, Palestine, and other areas I’ve mentioned, reminds me, I barely passed my GCSE history at school, but many people in this room will remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War.” He was readmitted to the party in December 2023.

Richard Holden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said: “This is just another example of the horrible truth about Labour – it hasn’t changed at all.

“First Labour stood by their Rochdale candidate for days until the pressure was too much. Now one of their own councillors has been caught red-handed campaigning for him.”

He called on the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to “immediately expel him” from the party.

Mr Galloway’s election in Rochdale has prompted fears in Labour ranks that the party could face a challenge in other seats from Left-wing opponents critical of its stance on the Israel-Gaza war.

However, the party has been warned against changing its foreign policy in the aftermath of the result.

Lord Walney, a former Labour MP who now sits as a crossbench peer, said: “The Rochdale fiasco underlines the extent to which significant numbers in some communities are prepared to cast their vote - at least in a by-election - on the single international issue of Israel and Palestine.

“There will be some in Labour who think the party must respond by meeting the demands of those casting protest votes that have elected George Galloway.

“In fact, the reverse is true. Labour risks losing far more support across ‘Red Wall’ seats and beyond if it allows its foreign policy approach to be moulded in this way. This is a moment to turn the conversation back to its mission of rebuilding the country.”

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