Labour hopeful claims he is victim of smear
A LEADING candidate to succeed Sir Gerald Kaufman in Parliament previously compared Israel to the Nazis.
Afzal Khan, a Labour MEP, announced he was running to be the party’s candidate in the Gorton by-election and said he hoped to carry on the work of his late friend Sir Gerald, who died last month.
During the 2014 Gaza conflict, Mr Khan tweeted an article with the headline: “The Israeli government are acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza.”
On Tuesday, he told the JC his tweet had not been an endorsement of the article.
“I have long since deleted this tweet and when this issue was raised with me last year I apologised for any offence caused,” Mr Khan said.
He claimed the episode was being used to “smear” him, and cited his years of work on groups tackling antisemitism as an example of his opposition to hatred.
Complaints were made about the tweet last year, including by the Board of Deputies and Manchester Jewish Representative Council but Labour declined to take disciplinary action, saying only that he had been “reminded of his responsibilities as a Labour representative”.
Ahead of the European elections in 2014, Mr Khan signed up to a five-point policy pledge of anti-Israel measures promoted by Labour Friends of Palestine.
A solicitor, Mr Khan is a former Lord Mayor and councillor in the city. He is a long-standing supporter of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, which he founded and previously cochaired. He told the JC: “In 2008 I was awarded a CBE for my work on community cohesion and inter-faith understanding. As an MEP I have continued this work as a member of the parliamentary intergroup against antisemitism. I will continue working to fight racism in all its forms, now and in the future.”
Manchester’s Gorton constituency is one of the safest Labour seats in Britain. Sir Gerald held it with a majority of more than 24,000 at the 2015 general election.
Labour’s chosen candidate is due to be announced next Wednesday. Other hopefuls include a number of councillors from across Manchester and activists from the hard-left Momentum group.
Elaina Cohen, a Jewish parliamentary adviser to a Labour MP, also intends to stand.