'What On Earth Is Happening?': Labour Frontbencher Squirms As Party's Woes Deepen

Shadow defence secretary John Healy insisted Keir Starmer has acted swiftly by dumping the party's Rochdale by-election candidate.
John Healy was given a rough ride on Sky News.
John Healy was given a rough ride on Sky News.
Sky News

A Labour frontbencher was left squirming as he was grilled over the crisis which has engulfed the party in recent days.

Shadow defence secretary John Healy was asked “what on earth is happening” after Labour withdrew support for its candidate in the upcoming Rochdale by-election, and suspended another candidate over allegedly anti-Israel remarks.

Appearing on Sky News this morning, Healy was grilled by presenter Kay Burley on Keir Starmer’s response to the controversies.

The Labour leader was accused of acting too slowly in disciplining Azhar Ali, who was only chosen as the party’s candidate in Rochdale two weeks ago.

It emerged at the weekend that he had told a meeting that Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 people to be killed on its own soil on October 7 in order to provide a pretext for invading Gaza.

After his remarks were reported by the Mail on Sunday, Labour initially stood by Ali after he made a full apology.

But he was eventually dumped by the party on Monday night after separate remarks he made at the same event about Jewish people in the media came to light.

Former MP Graham Jones, who had been chosen to stand for Labour in his former seat of Hyndburn in the general election, was then suspended last night over comments he made at the meeting.

A recording emerged of him referring to “fucking Israel” and suggesting that British people who volunteer to fight with the Israeli Defence Forces should be “locked up”.

Burley said to Healy: “What on earth’s happening to the Labour Party in the north west of England at the moment?”

The Labour shadow cabinet member said that in the case of Azhar Ali, it showed Keir Starmer “putting country and standards in public life ahead of our party interest”.

But Burley told Healy that Labour “need to get ahead of this” amid claims that a senior Labour council leader was also at the meeting where Ali and Jones’s comments were made.

The MP said: “Where new information comes to light, the party will act and 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.”

As Healy tried to criticise the Tories, Burley told him: “We’re not talking about the Conservatives this morning. Can we agree that anti-semitism is still a problem in the Labour Party?”

The shadow defence secretary insisted Starmer was “on a crusade to rebuild public confidence and standards in public life”.


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