Ward backs Israel boycott as Clegg defends Lib Dem action

By Jennifer Lipman, February 7, 2013

The leader of the Liberal Democrats has defended the action taken by the party over MP David Ward's attack on "the Jews".

Nick Clegg, questioned on David Ward's comments during his weekly LBC phone-in show, denied that he had not been tough enough.

"I stand by his apology," said Mr Clegg. "He was right to apologise because he was wrong."

It came as new allegations about Mr Ward's views on Israel and Anglo-Jewry emerged.

According to Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, the Bradford East MP questioned whether he should have replaced the phrase "the Jews" with "the Jewish community".

The MP, who has a majority of less than 400, made his original outburst two weeks ago after signing the Book of Remembrance for Holocaust Memorial Day. He accused "the Jews" of having failed to learn the lessons of history, comparing Israel today with the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Mr Ward, despite being disciplined by his party's chief whip, has shown no sign of regret. In an interview this week he referred to a pro-Israel "machine" stopping him from sharing his views. He also tweeted: "So - question is - how do we seriously raise issue of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel? Are these words acceptable to all?"

Communal leaders are understood to be meeting senior Liberal Democrats this morning to discuss Mr Ward's behaviour.

Last updated: 11:05am, February 7 2013