Lib Dems refuse to act on Ward’s Board remark

No action is to be taken by the Liberal Democrats following the latest in a series of controversial comments made by one of the party’s MPs.

Backbencher David Ward wrote on Twitter this week that it was a “shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for Roma”.

That was interpreted by Jewish communal groups as a reference to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and hinting at antisemitic slurs relating to money and power.

A Board spokesman said Mr Ward’s words were “clumsy and unacceptable”.

‘It sounded like an accusation of Jewish conspiracy’

In January, Mr Ward accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians”. The comments started a chain of events which led to his temporary suspension from the party during the summer recess.

Lib Dem chief whip Don Foster said this week that the Bradford East MP had given assurances the latest remarks were “intended as a reflection on the effectiveness of the Board of Deputies in representing the Jewish community”.

Mr Foster added: “The context in which he wrote was to promote similarly effective representation for the Roma community, a community on whose behalf he has a record of campaigning. David assures me that his comments had no other significance.

“In the absence of any evidence of his intent to the contrary, it would therefore be inappropriate to take action over this incident.”

But MEP Sarah Ludford, a vice-president of Lib Dem Friends of Israel, said Mr Ward’s comments sounded “like an antisemitic accusation of a Jewish conspiracy”.

A Board of Deputies spokesman said: “Mr Ward’s words were clumsy and unacceptable, but we welcome the recognition of the effectiveness of the Board. We would be delighted to offer our support to the Roma community to help them to develop their own representation.”

Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said: “We do not need supposed accolades that resonate with the well-worn myth of Jews, money and power. David Ward has said more than enough about Jews this year.”

John Mann MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, wrote to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to raise his concerns about Mr Ward’s comments. Mr Clegg is due to attend a parliamentary reception to mark Chanucah on December 2.

Mr Ward declined to comment.

Last updated: 4:01pm, November 26 2013