Should George Galloway step down and support Azhar Ali, a Muslim candidate who was dropped by Labour for speaking up on Palestine? Many on the left took great pleasure when Ali was dropped for allegedly making antisemitic remarks at a Lancashire Labour Party meeting shortly after the Hamas attack on 7th October. Ali is on the right of the party (He was an advisor to Blair and Brown) and it also opens the way for Galloway to win the seat on a pro-Palestinian platform: so a double whammy.

The Tories are also delighted. The Mail has sat on these allegations for months, waiting for the best moment to damage Labour. And hard on its heels, Guido Fawkes has now revealed that another Labour candidate, Graham Jones, the ex-Labour MP hoping to contest his old constituency in Hyndburn, Greater Lancashire, was also at the meeting and referred to “fucking Israel” and condemned British citizens who have gone to fight for the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza.

Like Ali, Jones is on the right of the Labour Party, and, while an MP, he was an enthusiastic supporter of arming Saudi Arabia to bomb the Houthi rebels in Yemen. But anyone on the left who takes any pleasure from their current disgrace is missing the point. Voices raised in opposition to Israel’s genocide in Gaza are being silenced by a right-wing media campaign that Labour is powerless to resist.

These candidates deserve our solidarity, whatever they have said and done in the past. The future of millions of Palestinians far outweighs any joy to be had in further discomfiture for Starmer’s Labour Party. And it is bad news for socialists that Labour is such a soft target for the right wing media. The media narrative is not about the substance of what Ali and Jones said. Instead it heralds the revival of the smear campaign about antisemitism in the Labour Party and focuses on Starmer’s supposed failure to change things. Labour’s response will be to double down on dissent within the party. Yesterday Hyndburn councillor Munsif Dad, who was at the same meeting as Ali and Jones was “spoken to” by Labour officials.

The intention is to try and isolate opposition to the Israeli genocide by smearing us all with antisemitism, stirring up Islamophobia by painting all Muslims as Hamas supporters and diverting attention from the government’s active support for Israel’s war crimes. It has to be seen in the context of government plans to spend over £5 million on combatting antisemitism in schools and colleges, which was reported by Middle East Eye as using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance “working definition” of antisemitism to prevent criticism of Israel.

Labour has already threatened to take action against members who campaign for Ali in Rochdale. Opposing the genocide and opposing this new Labour witch hunt are indivisible. Strengthening that opposition should be our priority. A week ago that meant voting Galloway in Rochdale. In our opinion today we have to seriously consider backing Ali instead.

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