The Liberal Democrats have denied that the disciplinary procedure over David Ward’s controversial comments about “the Jews” is over, despite claims by the MP that the issue has been resolved.
On his website, the Bradford East MP denied that he had been ordered to “work along with Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel” to identify appropriate language, and said he believed that “any disciplinary process was now over”.
His claims directly contradicted what Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael said had been agreed in a meeting involving Mr Ward and Nick Clegg, which was that the process was merely adjourned.
According to Mr Carmichael, the MP also agreed to remove his original statement about “the Jews”, Auschwitz and Israel from his website. Mr Ward failed to do this for three days, prompting LDFI chair Gavin Stollar to reject the arrangement.
“Ward has… failed to comply with the undertakings he gave you,” he said. “In those circumstances, LDFI must refer the matter back to you with a strong recommendation of further disciplinary action.”
The MP’s response had already drawn criticism from the chief executives of the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies, Jeremy Newmark and Jon Benjamin, who complained it was a “fig leaf”.
A LibDem spokesman was unable to say what further action would be taken, but confirmed that there was an ongoing process to deal with the recalcitrant MP. “It is very disappointing that David seems to be refusing to acknowledge his mistakes,” he said.
In a post on the website Lib Dem Voice, an activist urged Mr Ward to admit his “really stupid, crass mistake” and “stop blaming Alistair Carmichael, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes for doing their jobs.”
But Mr Ward’s conduct was defended in the comments on the post, with a reader named as LibDem peer Lord Greaves writing: “The way in which top LD MPs have treated [Ward] is a disgrace in my view, and similar to the way they treated Jenny Tonge, another Liberal who is worth more than a lot of her critics put together.
“If the powers that be in this party think that shooting their own troops in the foot whenever the Jewish establishment cry foul, and doing so by crass briefing of hostile national journalists, is the right way to go about things, they have a lot to learn.”