Lib Dem used 'racist' tactics, says Kaufman

By Jenni Frazer, May 27, 2010

A furious Sir Gerald Kaufman has accused the Liberal Democrats of antisemitic attacks on him during his successful bid to be re-elected as MP for Manchester Gorton.

Speaking this week during the Queen's Speech debate, Sir Gerald, Labour MP for the constituency since 1983, rounded on the Lib Dems and told them they would "have to indulge in some internal house cleaning".

He said that his Liberal Democrat opponent at the general election, Qassim Afzal, had gone "to mosques and other places where Muslims gather, telling people to vote against me because I am a Jew. I was told that again and again by Muslim voters. My Muslim voters are possessed of a decency and generosity of spirit utterly alien to the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency, because they organised for me as they never had before, and voted for me in many thousands".

The MP, frequently attacked by the Jewish community for his robust criticism of Israel, complained: "The incidents that took place in my constituency as part of an antisemitic campaign went on and on. One of my constituents, a Muslim, told me how Qassim Afzal came to his house, which had a poster of mine in the window, and said: 'You cannot have a poster in your window of a Jew. Take it down.'"

Sir Gerald said that if Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had not known about his candidate's actions before, "he should have done. I will wait to see what he does to deal with an overtly antisemitic candidate who fought a personally antisemitic election campaign.

"If the Deputy Prime Minister does not take swift action, I will know that he accepts that antisemitism is a run-of-the-mill form of campaigning by Liberal Democrats."

But Sir Gerald's complaints received short shrift from Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith. He said that the Labour MP had made "a series of very serious allegations, which he has the opportunity to make outside the House where there are proper procedures that can be followed to test them, and I would expect him to do that".

Last updated: 2:25pm, May 27 2010