Lib Dem Chief Whip on David Ward: “I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet”

by Stephen Tall on August 13, 2014

David WardThree weeks ago, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East David Ward tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. The following day he issued an apology, saying:

I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

That wasn’t quite the end of the matter, though. The Lib Dem disciplinary process required a meeting between the party’s Chief Whip, Don Foster, and David. That’s now taken place, and it’s been decided there will be no further action. The Yorkshire Post has published the statements issued by both:

In a statement released on Wednesday Mr Foster said: “In light of that apology, the assurance by David Ward that he would do all he could to ensure comments he made would be in a form that would be difficult to misinterpret, and that he will continue – in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian situation – to condemn violence on both sides and support moves for a cease fire, I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet.

“I am conscious that this decision will not satisfy some people. To them I would say, at a time of considerable international unease in the Middle East, comments have been made by politicians from all parties that have been unwelcome by some or other section of society.

“The question I have had to answer is not, did the comments by David Ward cause offence to some people (within the party or outside), but did they bring the party into disrepute?

David accepts that his tweet did cause offence to some people. He recognises that the use of Twitter as a form of communication can lead to misinterpretation and accepts the need for greater care in the future. However, I do not believe it was in any way anti-Semitic or motivated by anti-Semitic intentions and I do not believe his tweet brought the party into disrepute.”

Mr Ward told The Yorkshire Post he is happy to draw a line under the matter.

“This has been looked at very closely by the chief whip, and I’m delighted he has come to this conclusion,” Mr Ward said.

“The situation in Gaza is very difficult, it is a very controversial situation, I know everyone has a view on it but I’m happy that the chief whip has taken this decision, particularly in light of the anti-Semitic slurs which were made against me.

“I appreciate what is happening in Gaza is a controversial subject, and that people are generally either on one side or another and comments deemed to be critical by one side are regarded as unacceptable by the other.

“It is difficult to get into those arguments but the chief whip has taken all this into account and now I would like to draw a line under this.”

At the time I said I thought David Ward should immediately apologise or have the whip withdrawn. He did apologise so Don Foster’s decision seems reasonable. But David’s track record of making needlessly inflammatory statements generating all heat and no light is stacking up. Hopefully there won’t be a next time.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.