Clegg ‘lied’ on pledge to silence hate peer

By Keren David, August 20, 2009
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Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been accused of lying over his pledge to take action if Baroness Jenny Tonge made antisemitic remarks “on my watch”.

In June, Mr Clegg was challenged over his tolerance of Baroness Tonge after he pledged his opposition to antisemitism in an address to the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.

Douglas Murray, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, asked when the LibDem leader would root out antisemitism in his own party.

Mr Clegg insisted that Baroness Tonge’s offensive remarks had all been made before he became leader, and that he would discipline her if she repeated such behaviour.

The issue is not just that Baroness Tonge is meeting terrorist organisations, but that she is engaged in promoting and glorifying their agenda.

Douglas Murray

Mr Murray then wrote to Mr Clegg with examples of comments by Baroness Tonge since Mr Clegg became leader in December 2007.

Mr Murray wrote: “The issue is not just that Baroness Tonge is meeting terrorist organisations, but that she is engaged in promoting and glorifying their agenda.”

In March, she met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria, describing him as “shrewd, plausible and actually very likeable”. During her visit she also had a meeting with Ramadan Shalah, head of Islamic Jihad.

In July 2008, speaking at the IslamExpo 2008, she blamed the “Jewish lobby” in the US for “making all political parties obey the will of Israel” and said: “How can we stop antisemitism if they [Israel] keep treating the Palestinians like this?”

Mr Clegg has so far ignored Mr Murray’s letter, sent to his office on July 16.

This week, the LibDem leader’s press secretary said: “These are selective quotes from a meeting of which there is no recording or transcript. Nick Clegg has consistently demonstrated a commitment to engage with people from all sides of the debate relating to the Middle East. Jenny Tonge does not speak for the party on this issue.”
The LibDem website lists Baroness Tonge as an “expert” on the Middle East.

Mr Murray said: “Nick Clegg is deluded if he thinks that all Jenny Tonge is doing is listening to different sides of the debate. She is actively pushing one side’s views. Now we see that he is prepared to tell lies to placate people. This is why people are suspicious of politicians. He says he wants to root out antisemitism and he doesn’t even do it in his own party.”

In 2006, Baroness Tonge was reprimanded by the then party leader Sir Menzies Campbell for saying: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party.”

Sir Menzies said her remarks had “clear antisemitic connotations”. In 2004 she was sacked as a front bench spokesman for saying of Palestinian suicide bombers: “If I had to live in that situation — and I say that advisedly — I might just consider becoming one myself.”

Last updated: 4:19pm, August 21 2009