Board has let David Ward ‘off the hook’

The community’s response to the latest controversy involving David Ward has been called into question amid claims the Board of Deputies scuppered efforts to secure disciplinary action against the Liberal Democrat MP.

Communal sources claimed the Board refused to complain to the party after Mr Ward wrote on Twitter that it was a “shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for Roma”.

The tweet a fortnight ago had been interpreted by Jewish groups as a hint at antisemitic slurs relating to money and power.

Lib Dem chief whip Don Foster took no action against the Bradford East MP last week after concluding he had intended to reflect on the Board’s “effectiveness in representing the Jewish community”.

It was claimed this week that Mr Foster had decided not to act because the Board had refused to complain. A Board source said the claim was categorically untrue and had been invented in an attempt to tarnish the organisation.

But the Board’s stance in the aftermath of Mr Ward’s comments drew a furious reaction from communal organisations.

One Lib Dem said the Board’s position had “undermined any effort to call Mr Ward to account”.

A senior Jewish community figure is understood to have described the Board as “****ing idiots”. Another complained the move had “destroyed months of work” aimed at tackling Mr Ward.

A group of Lib Dem representatives, including an MP, a peer, and a European MP, are understood to have written a “vitriolic” letter to Mr Foster demanding action be taken against Mr Ward.

One party member said the stance subsequently taken by the Board had been “bewildering”.

“I don’t know what they are doing. It seems that at every juncture the Board have to make a decision they make the wrong one,” he said.

A Board spokesman said: “We will be leading a delegation from the community to meet Mr Foster to continue to address David Ward’s unacceptable language in his recent tweet and the handling of such issues generally.

“We will recommend his party take disciplinary measures against parliamentarians who make prejudiced comments about Jews or others.”

Mr Foster said he could not comment further on the matter.

Senior Board figures are known to be reluctant to challenge Mr Ward’s repeated indiscretions. They regard the backbencher as “an irrelevance” and believe concentrating on strengthening the relationship with party leader Nick Clegg will bear fruit in the long term.

The Deputy Prime Minister is due to be guest of honour at Monday’s Parliamentary Chanucah reception.

Last updated: 4:45pm, November 28 2013