Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has refused to comment on antisemitic remarks made by backbench MP David Ward, despite telling a Board of Deputies event this week that intolerance and extremism must be countered.
Moments after calling for a strong response to hatred at the Board’s Chanucah reception in Parliament on Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister repeatedly rejected the chance to comment on the comments made by his Bradford East MP.
Mr Ward has been under fire since January when, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, he accused “the Jews” of afflicting “atrocities on the Palestinians”. He has posted a series of tweets questioning Israel’s right to exist and was briefly stripped of the party whip over the summer.
The Lib Dems refused to launch disciplinary action last month after Mr Ward said it was a “shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for Roma”, which has been widely interpreted as an antisemitic slur.
The Deputy Prime Minister told the reception: “Expressions of intolerance, of extremism, of hatred, and sentiments of violence … must be countered through messages of tolerance, of resolve, of determination to stand up for the values of unity and respect.”
Mr Clegg then said the messages of Chanucah — “confronting adversity, sticking to the values you believe in through thick and thin” — remained resonant.
When asked immediately afterwards by the JC to comment on Mr Ward’s views, Mr Clegg refused, saying “no, no, no”.