When it was revealed this week that the Labour parliamentary candidate in Coventry South, Zarah Sultana, had previously said she would celebrate the deaths of Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu, few would have thought to defend her comments. In fact the candidate herself apologised this week for the remarks she made in 2015.
One person though seemed to struggle with how best to respond to the past allegations today. Labour’s candidate in Pudsey, Jane Aitchison, was on 5Live today, and was asked by presenter Emma Barnett whether Sultana should be allowed to stand, after these comments had come to light. The prospective MP first pleaded ignorance, saying:
‘I think that needs to be looked at’ and ‘I don’t know the details of it’. Reminded though by Emma Barnett that she now had been told the details, Aitchison mounted an awkward defence of past social media use. But she rather came undone when asked by Barnett:
‘Well I am asking you a specific: do you think she should be able to stand for saying she should celebrate the deaths of Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu? You’ve just gone through a selection process to be the candidate here.’
Which led to an excruciatingly long silence from the candidate, lasting for around 12 seconds, before she spoke again. Even more remarkably, the interview still managed to go downhill from there. Aitchison then appeared to defend the right of people to celebrate the deaths of others, saying:
‘People do celebrate deaths, sometimes, it’s not good is it? Is it really good to celebrate deaths? It’s not. But people do sometimes, because they feel strongly about whatever that person represented.’
Before appearing to compare Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler:
‘What I’m saying is that people, for instance… they celebrated the death of Hitler.’