Jenny Tonge lost us two seats, says Lib Dem peer

By Martin Bright, September 17, 2010

A leading Liberal Democrat believes Baroness Tonge's views on Israel may have helped to lose the party two seats at the general election.

Lord Carlile says that reaction to his fellow Lib Dem peer may have cost vital votes in the north London seats of Hampstead and Kilburn, and Islington South and Finsbury.

"My belief is that remarks taken as antisemitic had a significant effect on the results in those two very marginal north London seats," he said in an interview with the JC this week.

Baroness Tonge was sacked as the party's health spokesman in February after suggesting that Israel should investigate claims that its medical teams had harvested organs from Haiti earthquake victims.

"I thought the comments were completely outrageous, inexcusable and incomprehensible coming from a person with such a strong political record," Lord Carlile said.

Despite her removal as a frontbench spokesman, he felt that the party had been "slow to take the appropriate sanctions… In my view, if a person makes comments of that kind, however strongly felt, it makes them an ill fit in a party that has the word 'Liberal' in its title and means it."

Shortly to retire from his role of the past nine years as the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile is critical of the government's failure to share evidence with opposition frontbenchers.

He also believes that too little has been done to stop the funding of extremist groups through "charitable" front organisations. Britain had done "nothing like enough", he said.

Last updated: 11:15am, September 17 2010