Lib Dems divided over support for David Ward

A majority of Liberal Democrat supporters believe MP David Ward’s controversial comments about Israel and the Jews were wrong, according to a poll of party members.

But a majority also oppose the party leadership’s decision to withdraw the whip from the Bradford East MP.

Lib Dem Voice — a leading website for party supporters — questioned around 600 Lib-Dem members. It asked them about the comments made by Mr Ward since he first accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” in January.

A small majority — 54 per cent — disagreed with Mr Ward’s allegations that Israel was an apartheid state and that “the Zionists are losing the battle”.

Of those people, around one-fifth backed the removal of the whip and 17 per cent said it should remain withdrawn until he offers a full apology.

But a significant number of Lib-Dem members — 37 per cent — said they supported his right to “continue speaking out in this way” and said they opposed the removal of the whip. A further 16 per cent disagreed with his comments, but felt the suspension was wrong.

On Saturday Mr Ward again took to Twitter where he pledged “no more apologies” and wrote on Israel: “ ‘Apartheid state’ — disproportionate language? Wake up in Gaza with sewage stinking sea one side — nuclear armed state other — what u think?”

On Tuesday, the BBC Trust published its findings into a complaint on the BBC News website’s reporting of Mr Ward’s initial “the Jews” comments.

The Trust partially upheld the complaint made by a Jewish student from Hendon, north-west London.

He had claimed that the reporting of Mr Ward’s comments had been “imprecise” and alleged that the BBC had “re-ordered” the MP’s words to suggest that his criticisms had been only of Jews in Israel and not “the Jews” in general.

A headline and introduction to a story had been inaccurate and misleading, the Trust agreed. But it rejected the suggestion that the reporting had been intentionally biased and said the article had “achieved due impartiality”.

Last updated: 1:45pm, August 1 2013