The disciplinary process against a Liberal Democrat MP who accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” is in disarray after two peers pulled out of a meeting aimed at resolving the issue.
Party leader Nick Clegg ordered David Ward to meet Jewish Lib Dem Lord Carlile and cross-bencher Baroness Neuberger last month. It had been hoped they would discuss the comments the Bradford East MP had made ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day in January.
But the JC has learned that the peers have withdrawn after Mr Ward publicised the meeting on Twitter. At the end of May he asked his followers for “advice” and revealed the names of the two peers.
It is thought Lord Carlile and Baroness Neuberger had expected the meeting to remain confidential until it had taken place. Neither of them would comment on the situation this week.
On Wednesday, a Lib Dem spokesman said he was unable to confirm the cancellation of the meeting and could not comment further on the status of the disciplinary action.
A similar initiative for Mr Ward to meet Lib Dem Friends of Israel members collapsed in February after he failed to remove offensive comments from his website.
While Mr Clegg is determined to see Mr Ward reprimanded, there is also a fear that heavily punishing the backbencher could push him towards leaving the party and standing as an independent at the next election. Mr Ward has a majority of just 365. Respect MP George Galloway holds the neighbouring constituency.
One senior Lib Dem complained that the disciplinary process had been allowed to “fester” for too long. Jewish communal leaders have repeatedly criticised Mr Clegg’s handling of the process during the past five months.
A spokesman for Mr Ward said on Wednesday that there was “nothing more to add at this stage”.