LABOUR have withdrawn their support for Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali, following criticism of remarks he made about Israel.

Ali had apologised after he was recorded suggesting in a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party that Israel had taken the October 7 Hamas assault as a pretext to invade Gaza.

A party spokesperson said: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.

“Keir Starmer has changed Labour so that it is unrecognisable from the party of 2019.

“We understand that these are highly unusual circumstances, but it is vital that any candidate put forward by Labour fully represents its aims and values."

READ MORE: Labour stand by Azhar Ali after 'offensive' Israel claims

It comes after Labour stood by their candidate, with shadow minister saying today that he believed that Ali had fallen “for an online conspiracy theory.”

Asked whether the incident reflected a problem at large with the Labour Party in Rochdale, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve got, as I understand it, a short clip from a meeting, so I think it would be unfair to draw a wider conclusion in that way.”

On why Mr Ali has not been suspended, Thomas-Symonds said: “Well, let me first say the remarks that have been made are completely and utterly unacceptable. I was very shocked and appalled to see them and they in no way represent the views of the Labour Party.

“Councillor Ali has apologised unreservedly. He’s retracted those remarks and he’s also shown a sense of the gravity of the offence that has been caused and the need to do now tremendous amounts of work to rebuild trust with the Jewish community which is going to be absolutely essential.

“So it’s for those reasons he hasn’t been suspended and why we will now continue this campaign in Rochdale.”

Asked whether he believes the candidate has genuinely changed his mind following the remarks, Thomas-Symonds said: “I do take what Councillor Ali has said at face value that he fell for an online conspiracy theory.”

Given that nominations have now closed, Azhar Ali cannot be replaced as Labour's candidate.