Nick Clegg under fire over David Ward discipline delay

By Marcus Dysch, June 6, 2013

The Liberal Democrats have been criticised for claiming the party would tackle racial discrimination while stalling on its own response to offensive comments made by one of the party’s MPs.

The Jewish Leadership Council said the Lib Dems had not done enough to deal with Bradford East MP David Ward after he said ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day in January that “the Jews” were “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians”.

The JLC’s condemnation came as Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg promoted a party report on racial equality in education and employment.

Mr Clegg said the party had a “proud history of fighting racism and discrimination in all areas of life”.

It was revealed last week that Mr Clegg and senior party officials had ordered Mr Ward to meet Jewish Lib Dems Lord Carlile and Baroness Neuberger to discuss his comments. The party was unable to confirm this week whether a date had yet been set for the meeting, "despite collective best efforts".

The JLC said it was “dismayed that sufficient action has still not been taken against David Ward”.

“Perhaps Nick Clegg should have included in the recommendations of the recent report a code for members of his own party. While such a report is commendable in theory, it serves to highlight the failure of the Liberal Democrats to fight racism within its own ranks,” a JLC spokesman said.

The 111-page report on race equality in education and employment is the first document produced by a special Lib Dems’ taskforce. The document focuses largely on minorities, including black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, but makes no mention at all of Jewish or other religious communities.

Mr Clegg said that recommendations in the report were not party policy and that he “didn’t necessarily agree” with the suggestions.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "Nick Clegg has repeatedly stated his opposition to the statement made by Mr Ward, and that it is completely unacceptable and offensive to conflate criticism of the actions of the Israeli government with an entire people.”

The JC understands that senior Jewish figures in the party support a meeting between Mr Ward and the Peers but believe the case has been left to “fester” since January.

Mr Ward’s case is thought to have fallen down the pecking order over the past five months as the Lib Dems contended with disciplinary actions against former Cabinet member Chris Huhne, Lord Rennard and MP Mike Hancock.

There is also thought to be concern within the party that if Mr Clegg removed the whip, Mr Ward may seek to “jump ship” and stand at the 2015 election alongside Respect MP George Galloway, whose constituency neighbours Mr Ward’s Bradford East seat.

Mr Ward said last week that it was “inappropriate” for him to comment ahead of the meeting.

Last updated: 4:45pm, June 6 2013