Liberal Democrats suspend whip from David Ward

David Ward

David Ward

The Liberal Democrats have withdrawn the party whip from David Ward following a series of offensive comments made by the MP.

Mr Ward accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day in January.

Earlier this week he sent a tweet stating: "At long last the Zionists are losing the battle - how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?"

The whip has been removed until September 13. Parliament returns from its summer recess on September 2.

Mr Ward met Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael and Simon Hughes on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Carmichael announced the whip had been removed on Thursday. In a letter to Mr Ward outlining the details of the action he wrote: "We were in unanimous agreement that questioning the continued existence of the State of Israel fails the test of language that is 'proportionate and precise'.

"During the meeting, we put it to you that your most recent statement – which specifically questions the continuing existence of the State of Israel – is neither proportionate nor precise.

"Unfortunately, we considered your explanation to be unconvincing and it did not satisfy us that you understood the importance of conducting the debate on this issue at all times and in all places in terms that are proportionate and precise.

"It is also immensely frustrating for us to find ourselves constantly responding to questions about disproportionate and imprecise language from you.

"Whilst we understand you have your own views about this process, which has been long and complicated, we also hope you recognise that we have given you every opportunity to reconcile the expression of your views with the party’s policy on a two-state solution. Unfortunately, you have not been able to do that."

The Bradford East MP had previously been rebuked by Mr Clegg but a recent plan for Mr Ward to meet two Jewish peers to discuss his comments was abandoned after the peers pulled out.

Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel chairman Gavin Stollar said: "David Ward's comments have been unacceptable.

"We fully endorse the Party leadership's response and hope it will deter David from making such similar mistakes in the future."

On Wednesday, Labour's Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls told the JC that he was "disappointed" by the Lib Dem response to Mr Ward's behaviour since January. Mr Balls accused Lib Dem leaders of "ducking" the opportunity to take action.

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark said: "There are serious questions as to whether this move came swiftly enough and whether it goes far enough.

"However some action that is the first proper, formal recognition of the serious nature of this matter is better than none.

"If the Liberal Democrat party is committed to stamping out extremism of this kind it really must develop a process that enables the leadership to act in a swift and decisive manner against parliamentarians who cross red lines.

"As we have seen with the remarks of Sir Bob Russell MP, Ward is by no means an isolated case.”

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said: "David Ward has never fully apologised for his comments, which deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust and caused deep pain and offence.

"It is about time the whip was withdrawn but the timing allows Mr Ward to repeat his unacceptable views when Parliament returns in the autumn.”

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “We note that the Liberal Democrats have at last taken some action to address the completely inappropriate and offensive comments that he has made.

"However, suspension of the whip for just two months when Parliament is not sitting is too little, too late. It is a token and frankly an empty gesture.”

Last updated: 5:51pm, July 18 2013