A GOVERNMENT minister has questioned the validity of a former council boss's suspension from the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitism after he was seen campaigning for it in this month's local elections.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal was temporarily excluded in June last year pending an investigation after he implied that Israel was comparable to Nazi Germany in a speech during a Pendle Council debate.

The Bradley ward councillor - then leader of the authority and the borough Labour group - has always denied being anti-Semitic.

Now the Jewish Chronicle has published pictures of Cllr Iqbal canvassing on behalf of the party in the run up to May 4's poll, outside a polling station wearing a Labour rosette, and posing alongside Labour figures - including Lancashire County Council Labour group leader Cllr Azhar Ali - at the election count..

The Lancashire Telegraph has received several emails and press releases from Cllr Iqbal apparently on behalf of the Pendle Labour party and council group since his suspension.

Now Pendle Conservative MP and government whip Andrew Stephenson has questioned whether his exclusion is real and urged opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer to expel him properly.

He said: "Since his supposed 'suspension' from the Labour Party Cllr Iqbal has continued to sit with the Labour group in Pendle Council and Lancashire County Council.

"He was seen repeatedly out campaigning for Labour in the run up to the local elections and then attended the count to celebrate alongside other Labour councillors.

"It is therefore unclear what his 'suspension' actually means.

"In the light of the Pendle Labour Party turning a blind eye to antisemitism Sir Keir Starmer should launch an investigation into the local Labour party and make Cllr Iqbal’s suspension permanent."

Party sources have said the suspension of Cllr Iqbal - who officially sits as an Independent on Pendle Borough and Lancashire County Councils - remained in force pending a decision on his future by its complaints board.

A spokesman for the Jewish Labour Movement told the Jewish Chronicle : “If he has taken part in campaigning then it is likely that he will have broken the rules of his suspension and this will be added onto the charge sheet when his case is heard. All parts of the party must be with us and Keir Starmer in destroying this toxic legacy of antisemitism from our party.”

Anne-Marie Wrigley, vice-chair of Pendle Labour Party, said: “After 13 years as MP for Pendle Andrew Stephenson is now resorting to personal attacks against Labour Party members because he has seen the tide has turned.

“This is a desperate man worried more about his ministerial career than anything else.

“Cllr Iqbal is suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation which we hope will be concluded soon.

“He cannot act on behalf of the Labour Party."