POLITICS
07/11/2019 11:11 GMT | Updated 20/01/2020 15:34 GMT

Labour Candidate Who Wanted To ‘Celebrate’ Death Of Tony Blair Faces Deselection

Coventry South contender Zarah Sultana summoned for fresh NEC interview

HuffPost UK
Zarah Sultana

A Labour general election candidate who said she looked forward to the death of Tony Blair is facing deselection by the party, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Zarah Sultana, who had also backed “violent resistance” against Israel and accused some in Labour of “weaponising” anti-Semitism, was chosen as the contender for the safe seat of Coventry South just a week ago.

But the 26-year-old activist will now be subject to an extra endorsement interview by a panel of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

It remains unclear whether any apology will be enough for her to survive as a candidate.

The NEC decided yesterday to bar Sally Gimson from standing in Bassetlaw and GP Laura Davies from standing in Shrewsbury, following complaints from party members.

It also decided to strip candidacies from Jason West and Jann Oliver, who are contesting West Dorset and Bromley respectively, sources said.

Sultana – who had been endorsed by the Unite union and Momentum – apologised this week after deleted social media posts were unearthed that showed she wanted to “celebrate” the deaths of world leaders, including Tony Blair.

She had written on Twitter in 2015: “Try and stop me when the likes of Blair, Netanyahu and Bush die... The sooner they meet their creator the better. The concepts of justice and accountability don’t truly exist in this life. Only in the next.”

And in a separate Facebook post, she wrote that when she had publicly backed the Palestinian right to “non-violent resistance”, she had in fact meant “violent resistance”.

“Best believe that was an error and I meant to write ‘violent resistance’ #signsofanextremistMuslim,” she wrote.

In another Facebook post she said: “The Labour Right are scum and genuinely make me sick. Is there any form of discrimination that they won’t weaponise to politically point score like they’ve done in the past with antisemitism and now with homophobia?” 

In a deleted tweet seen by HuffPost UK, she also argued Israel had been “created through ethnic cleansing, sustained through occupation, apartheid and war crimes”. She added that Jewish students who attended “Zionist conferences and trips” were “advocating racist ideology”.

And in another Facebook post, revealed today for the first time, she accused  Jewish students of being bankrolled by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It must be hard to make a ‘positive case for Israel’ within NUS [National Union of Students] when you’ve got to sugarcoat racist settler colonialism. [...] Well unless you’re on Bibi’s paycheque.”

HuffPost UK
Zara Sultana

Labour is currently undergoing a statutory investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into alleged institutional anti-Semitism.

The party has been trying to prove that its structures and disciplinary processes have improved.

Former MP Chris Williamson was barred from standing in the election over his own alleged attempt to downplay the extent of anti-Semitism. His resignation letter has been roundly condemned for using an anti-Semitic trope, after he group was “revived in 2015 at the same time as the State of Israel launched a diplomatic strategy to delegitimise Palestinian activism on the left and normalise Zionism in our movement.”

In her apology on Monday, Sultana said she had been “exasperated by endless cycles of global suffering, violence and needless killing”.

She said tweets, from a deleted account from her student days, were “written out of frustration rather than any malice”.

“I do not support violence and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologise.”

When she was announced as the Coventry South candidate last week, she wrote on social media: “With your support, I will be a strong socialist voice for working people in this city.”

Labour won a majority of nearly 8,000 in the 2017 general election, when Jim Cunningham was the party’s candidate.

Some activists in the Coventry South party recently accused the NEC of trying to “stitch up” the selection by excluding popular local candidates.

The Labour party has been approached for comment.

Jane Aitchison, the Labour candidate for Pudsey, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “People do celebrate deaths sometimes, is it good? It’s not. What I’m sahing is people for instance celebrated the death of Hitler, it’s not tasteful.”