Support may come as surprise

By Martin Bright, November 11, 2010

When I mentioned to a Jewish journalist friend that I was off to the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel lunch, he said he didn't know there were any. Other people in the political world joked it would be an intimate occasion, such is the general consensus about Lib Dem hostility to Israel.

This is why Nick Clegg's speech was such a significant moment. He put down a marker that showed his party would no longer be the home of glib causes and tokenistic banner waving. Mr Clegg has consistently supported the Palestinians' right to self-determination. But he had the maturity to recognise that Israel's voice has not been loud enough in debate within his party.

The change in the mood music in the Liberal Democrats is the result of a long and often thankless campaign from the likes of Monroe Palmer within LDFI. Younger activists such as Matthew Harris, Ed Fordham and Gavin Stollar have also played a crucial role in keeping up the pressure on the leadership, and Clegg spoke to a packed room.

At a time when the once rock-solid bond between the Labour Party and the Jews is coming under considerable strain, could it be possible that the Liberal Democrats are preparing to repair a connection that seemed broken forever?

Martin Bright is political editor of the JC

Last updated: 3:24pm, November 11 2010