The reaction of the Liberal Democrat leadership to David Ward’s controversial comments on Israel and the Holocaust could scarcely be described as over zealous. The standard email response sent to anyone expressing disquiet about his remarks seemed designed more to reassure the reader that the Lib Dems are absolutely not trying to censor criticism of Israel than to engage with concerns about the language Ward used. A spokesperson from the Holocaust Educational Trust has described the party’s reaction as ‘disappointing’.
The suggestion that Ward should consult with Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel in order to gain a better understanding of the offence caused by his words struck many as a mild judgement. However even this step apparently fell through due to Ward’s delays and equivocations over deleting the controversial piece from his website.
Indeed Ward’s entire conduct since the controversy broke has done nothing to reassure his critics. Here is an extract from a piece which first appeared on ‘Zenpolitics’, and which Ward reposted on his website last month:
In truth, that wording looks more like an unconscious error than any major mistake. Ward’s real ‘mistake’, as far as the Zionist lobby and many liberal commentariat are concerned – and as his Liberal colleague Jenny Tongue (sic) also found out to her cost – was to criticise Israel at all. Not a word here from Edemariam on that much more central indictment.
The impression that Ward, far from being repentant, is deliberately defying his critics and party bosses is further strengthened by the latest update to his website, lifted from an article which was first published in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus. This takes issue with the Liberal Democrat leadership’s account of the (rather half hearted) recent disciplinary action against him:
David Ward has lashed out at his Liberal Democrat bosses – accusing them of wrongly claiming he has been ordered to attend “language classes”.
The Bradford East MP insisted no such punishment had been imposed, following his controversial comments about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Mr Ward also said it was his understanding that any disciplinary process was now over – despite the Lib Dem chief whip stating it was merely “adjourned”.
Mr Carmichael wrote: “I am not clear how much time this work [the meeting with Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel] will require, although it will involve other people making time available to work with you and their availability is at present unknown. In the circumstances, therefore, the disciplinary process currently stands adjourned and a date will require to be fixed at which progress can be reviewed and it can be concluded.” But Mr Ward said he had not been shown the letter before its release and, therefore, had not agreed to its contents. He will meet with a Lib Dem Friends of Israel representative next week, but insisted the act was voluntary.
Here is a frank response from Paul Walter on Liberal Democrat Voice.
Dear David Ward, please drop this. You made a really stupid, crass mistake by using the phrase “the Jews” in a statement on your website. It was an act of stupidity of mind-blowing proportions. A colossal misjudgement. Even someone taking their GCSEs shouldn’t make a thunderously daft mistake like that. And you say you have run race awareness courses! Unbelievable!
You should just accept that you made a mistake and stop blaming Alistair Carmichael, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes for doing their jobs.
If you don’t like it, stand as an independent at the next election.
It would be good to hear equally robust words from others in the party.