Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has bowed to pressure to sack his disgraced former MP, David Ward, after Ward was selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Bradford East. Mr Farron first claimed that he was powerless to intervene in local parties’ selection processes.
Campaign Against Antisemitism had worked with outraged Liberal Democrats to raise the issue with Mr Farron when news of Mr Ward’s selection broke yesterday, but to no avail: Mr Farron said that his hands were tied.
The knockout blow was delivered by Sir Eric Pickles and the Prime Minister during Prime Minister’s Questions. Sir Eric praised the Prime Minister for adopting the International Definition of Antisemitism on behalf of the government, and asked whether she felt that all parties should “not just pay lip service to it, but to actually do something about it”, before attacking Mr Ward’s views. The Prime Minister demanded that “all parties maintain the strongest possible censure on all forms of intolerance”. When Mr Farron was then called upon to speak, he avoided the issue, but tweeted later: “I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united. David Ward is unfit to represent the party and I have sacked him.”
Mr Ward has previously been suspended by the Party over his comments about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel. Mr Farron personally welcomed him back into the Party last year, saying he had “served his time”.
In 2013, he marked Holocaust Memorial Day by writing and entry on his website and in a Holocaust memorial book saying: “Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am 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 in the West Bank and Gaza.” In a later statement he added: “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.” The International Definition of Antisemitism states that “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic.
In July same year he was suspended by the Party for three months over a tweeted statement appearing to call for the destruction of the State of Israel. The International Definition of Antisemitism states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)” is antisemitic.
In July 2014 he appeared to side with terrorist group Hamas, which seeks the annihilation of all Jews globally and is banned in the UK, tweeting: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. He apologised under severe pressure.
Last year, we complained to the Party after Mr Ward tweeted in response to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into antisemitism: “Antisemitism row becoming daft — for a voice of sanity see the PSC evidence to the Chakrabati Inquiry (and HASC)” but no action was taken against him.
We will remain in contact with senior Liberal Democrats whose work against antisemitism we applaud, however Mr Farron deserves no credit for allowing the selection of such an unsuitable candidate, then claiming to be powerless to intervene, then sacking him.
Just as in the case of Ashuk Ahmed MBE, who was suspended from the Party after we exposed him in the media yesterday, the Party was well aware of Mr Ward’s past but only acted under intense pressure.
It is a great shame that Tim Farron only seems to act on antisemitism when enough people are watching.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is a volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law. Everything that we do is done by people who volunteer their time, using donations contributed by members of the public. Join the fight against antisemitism by subscribing to our updates, volunteering, or donating.