Lib Dem MP David Ward faces fresh showdown over 'the Jews' comments

 

A Liberal Democrat MP has been summoned for a fresh showdown with party bosses amid an escalating row over controversial comments he made about atrocities committed by “the Jews”.

The party said "further decisions" would be taken about David Ward after Jewish leaders demanded action following a meeting with Lib Dem chiefs aimed at calming tensions.

The Bradford East MP was censured by chief whip Alistair Carmichael last month, apologised for any "unintended offence" and made a written promise not to repeat the reference.

But the Board of Deputies of British Jews said the apology had "no credibility" as the MP had not removed the offending post from his website and in the light of further remarks.

Jewish News yesterday reported that Mr Ward had asked if it would satisfy critics if he changed the wording to read "the Jewish community", sparking renewed complaints.

Mr Carmichael and Lib Dem chief executives called a meeting yesterday morning with the heads of the board and other bodies including the Holocaust Educational Trust.

A joint statement issued by the groups afterwards said they had been assured that the new comments would be "dealt with as a fresh issue" by the party.

"It was made clear that this will be pursued in the context of Mr Carmichael's commitment that if 'anything of this sort' ever happened again the consequences for Mr Ward 'would escalate significantly' beyond the official censure already imposed," they said.

"During the meeting we repeated our bewilderment that the original statements remain on Ward's website and our view that his prior apology has no credibility."

A party spokesman said the MP was on a visit to the Netherlands with a Commons select committee but would be summoned to the whips' office on his return - thought to be at the weekend.

"We are fully aware of the latest comments," he said.

"David will be once again summoned to the whips' office and will meet again with Alistair Carmichael. Further decisions will be made in due course".

The row first blew up over a posting made by Mr Ward on his website after signing a memorial book to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

He wrote that he was "saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis".

After initially issuing a strong defence of his words, he subsequently apologised.

Mr Carmichael said the wording was "unacceptable" and censured the MP, who gave an undertaking that he would "not again use the phrase 'the Jews' in this context".

Jewish News yesterday published an email exchange with the MP in which it reported he wrote: "Can you ask the Board of Deputies if they are in agreement that I should replace the words 'the Jews' with 'the Jewish community' - if so, I am perfectly happy to do so."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg earlier said he stood by Mr Ward's apology.

Confronted with the Jewish News claims during his weekly radio phone-in for LBC 97.3, he said he had not seen the fresh claims.

"David Ward has apologised for what he said. It was quite right that he should apologise. What he said was completely out of order and that was made completely clear to him," he said.

"But I was very, very clear at the time that what I thought David Ward said was totally out of order. He apologised.

"I stand by his apology and his apology was right."

PA

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