Labour is coming under pressure to drop their candidate in the Rochdale by-election after he claimed Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 of its citizens to be massacred on October 7 in order to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

Azhar Ali also claimed that Sir Keir Starmer had “lost the confidence” of his MPs because of his unwillingness to back a ceasefire.

The remarks were contained in a secret recording obtained by The Mail on Sunday.

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Mr Ali made his initial remarks at a meeting of the Lancashire Labour Party soon after the attacks.

He told the meeting: T"he Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten days earlier... Americans warned them a day before [that] there's something happening...

"They deliberately took the security off, they allowed... that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want."

After someone suggested Sir Keir was "held in high regard", Mr Ali replied: "Can I disagree with you... A lot of the MPs I've spoken to, non-Muslim MPs, feel that on this issue, he's lost the confidence of the parliamentary party."

Mr Ali was selected last month to contest the by-election, caused by the death of Sir Tony Lloyd. He is defending a majority of 9,000.

In a statement issued on Saturday night, Mr Ali said: “I apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant, and false.

“Hamas's horrific terror attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone, and they are still holding hostages who must be released.

“October 7 was the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust, and Jews in the UK and across the world are living in fear of rising anti-Semitism.

“I will urgently apologise to Jewish leaders for my inexcusable comments.

“The Labour Party has changed unrecognisably under Keir Starmer's leadership – he has my full support in delivering the change Britain needs.'

Speaking to Sky News, Pat McFadden, the party’s UK campaign co-ordinator, said Mr Ali would remain as the candidate in the by-election.

He said: "His comments were completely wrong. He should never have said something like that.

"He's issued a complete apology and retraction and I hope he learns a good lesson from it because he should never have said something like that in the first place."

Mr McFadden added: "It was wrong to say that you should never have said it, and it's right that he is completely apologised now and he himself said it was wrong to say it and that's the right thing to do."

Pressed over whether he would remain Labour's candidate, Mr McFadden said: "Yes, he will."

Joe Glasman, Head of Political and Government Investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said it was incredible that the party was still backing Mr Ali's candidacy.

He said: “Today we learned that Azhar Ali, Labour’s candidate for Parliament in Rochdale, claimed that Israel engineered the murder of over 1,200 of its own people — the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust — in order to justify an incursion into Gaza.

"It is a blood libel.

"This man does not belong in a major political party, let alone in Parliament, yet Labour is, incredibly, still backing his candidacy after a quick apology."