David Ward: Minding his language enough for Lib Dems?

 
David Ward David Ward says he will continue to speak his mind

It has been business as usual over the summer for David Ward the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East.

He has travelled the length and breadth of his West Yorkshire constituency, attended dozens of events, conducted countless surgeries and always had enthusiastic support from local party members.

But throughout all that effort David Ward has not actually been a Liberal Democrat MP.

His party leader Nick Clegg temporarily suspended him from the parliamentary party in July after a long-running dispute over the views he has voiced on the state of Israel.

Technically he is no longer under the "party whip" and is an independent MP until the suspension is lifted. A reassessment of his position is due as Liberal Democrats gather in Glasgow on Friday 13 September for their annual party conference.

David Ward says he expects no problems in being reinstated, but it might not be as simple as that.

Back in the fold?

The outspoken West Yorkshire MP is stubbornly sticking to his view that Israel is a country that should not be allowed to exist by the international community because of its "apartheid policies" on citizens who happen to be Palestinian.

In at least two face-to-face meetings in the run-up to the suspension, Nick Clegg first reprimanded him then took the decision to suspend him because party policy is for a twin state approach to achieving long-term stability in that part of the Middle East by recognising both an independent Palestine and the state of Israel.

In interviews I recorded for the BBC's Sunday Politics Programme for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, David Ward was far from apologetic.

The row first surfaced earlier this year when he outraged Jewish communities across the UK by publishing online statements blaming "Jews" for supporting the use of violent tactics against Palestinian communities in Israel.

It did not go unnoticed that he did that on International Holocaust Day.

He eventually admitted that his language had been imprecise and he was really pointing the finger of guilt at the hardline "Zionist" policies of successive Israeli governments.

But David Ward's conclusion - repeated a few weeks later - that this means the state of Israel has no sustainable future poses an even bigger challenge to his party.

The Bradford MP shrugs off suggestions that by continuing to voice those views Nick Clegg might not be inclined to allow him to return to the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Commons.

But he also told me that as far as he is concerned the issue is of such importance that he will continue to speak his mind and if that meant from outside the party then, in his words, "so be it".

 
Len Tingle Article written by Len Tingle Len Tingle Political editor, Yorkshire

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