My encounter with Baroness Tonge

July 03, 2008 01:00

Re my post below, I don't think I've told this story before.

A few months after Baroness Tonge had been sacked as a front-bencher by Charles Kennedy for her remarks about Palestinian murderers, I was on a radio programme. The Baroness was one of the other particpants. I was looking forward to the programme, as I wanted to take her to task for her views.

Before the programme there was a dinner for the guests. I was unsure about breaking bread with her - I would no more wish to socialise with her than I would with anyone else who thinks I am part of a conspiracy to run the world and destroy non-Jews. But I figured it would be impolite to my hosts to refuse to come, so I went along.

Almost immediately the issue of her sacking arose. The host shared his sorrow at her removal, and said how badly 'everyone' thought she had been treated by her party leader, who was clearly too weak to stand up to the Israeli lobby. A very senior Labour politician (whom I had previously respected as a decent man) concurred. So did the producer.

I had a split second to think how to respond. Should I stick to my plan of being polite, and remain silent lest I cause a scene? Or should I make clear that not 'everyone' agreed with the consensus around the table?

I couldn't in all conscience do anything else. So I said, quietly but, I hope, firmly, that not everyone agreed, and that some of us - such as myself and many people I know, many of whom were not Jewish - thought that her remarks were contemptible, and that she had been let off lightly. Far from Charles Kennedy overreacting, a more appropriate response might have been to have the whip withdrawn. And she remained in the legislature, able to determine the laws under which I lived, which I found to be unsettling at best.

There was a very awkward silence, since it was not the done thing to behave like that over dinner. But the topic of comnversation was changed, I did the programme, and have done it since.

July 03, 2008 01:00

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