Labour leader Keir Starmer
Labour leader Keir StarmerReuters

Britain's opposition Labour Party has withdrawn support for its candidate to become a member of parliament in a special election after he was recorded espousing conspiracy theories about Israel, Reuters reported on Monday.

Labour announced it had withdrawn support for Azhar Ali, its by-election candidate for Rochdale in northern England, after he suggested Israel had relaxed its security in run up to the October 7 attack by Hamas to provide grounds to invade Gaza.

Ali claimed that the United States had warned Israel a day before that an attack was planned by Hamas and they "deliberately took the security off" so they would have the opportunity to "do whatever they bloody want", according to a recording published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

He apologized for the comments on Sunday, saying they were "deeply offensive, ignorant, and false".

Nevertheless, a spokesperson for Labour said on Monday that the party had withdrawn support for Ali, and it will not be able to find another candidate because the deadline has passed to replace him.

"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," the spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

The Labour Party came under fire under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, both over Corbyn’s own antisemitism as well as the rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric within the party.

Dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their antisemitic statements in recent years, while the party has been criticized for its failure to deal with the antisemitism within it.

Corbyn stepped down after the Labour Party had its poorest showing since 1935 in the elections. He was later suspended from Labour following the publication of a report which found numerous cases where the party leadership under Corbyn underplayed, belittled or ignored complaints by Jewish members, and sometimes actively interfered to support political allies.

Keir Starmer, who became party leader after Corbyn stepped down, apologized shortly after being elected for how the Labour Party has handled antisemitism within its ranks and committed to making change.

He later committed to setting up an independent complaints process for antisemitism in the party, saying it is “very important to me to seek to address the disgrace of antisemitism in our party as soon as possible.”