Ex-Lib Dem MP David Ward sacked as Bradford East candidate

Image caption,
Mr Ward said the decision was designed to stop "supporters of the Palestinians" being elected

Ex-MP David Ward has been sacked as a Lib Dem general election candidate, party leader Tim Farron says.

Mr Ward, who planned to stand in Bradford East - the seat he lost in the last election - caused controversy in 2013 when he accused "the Jews" of atrocities against Palestinians.

His party membership has been suspended and an independent panel will carry out an investigation after the election.

Mr Ward expressed "sadness" over his sacking and denied being anti-Semitic.

But Mr Farron said he was unfit to represent the party, adding: "I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united."

His decision was welcomed by the Jewish Leadership Council, which called Mr Ward "an unrepentant serial offender".

In 2013, Mr Ward posted a tweet calling Israel an "apartheid state" and saying that "Zionists" were "losing the battle".

Mr Ward refused to apologise at the time and had the party whip withdrawn.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Tim Farron said he believed in "open, tolerant and united" politics

Later, in 2014 he was forced to apologise after suggesting he might be ready to fire rockets from Gaza into Israel.

He also recently tweeted that "all terrorist attacks in UK stem from our foreign policy", following the Westminster terror attack.

Speaking during a campaign visit to St Albans before the sacking, Mr Farron said he was "utterly passionate in tackling and fighting anti-Semitism".

He criticised Mr Ward's comments, and added: "I've been very very clear that we will have absolutely no tolerance - zero tolerance - of anti-Semitic remarks."

Mr Ward has previously said that neither he nor his comments had been anti-Semitic.

Following his sacking, he told the BBC: "Supporters of Israel are using this as a tactic. It's an attempt to stop supporters of the Palestinians getting into parliament."

Mr Ward's removal as a candidate came shortly after Theresa May criticised his selection during Prime Minister's Questions.

Responding to a question from Sir Eric Pickles - a long time campaigner against anti-Semitism - she said "people would be rightly disappointed to see the Liberal Democrats re-elect a candidate with a questionable record on anti-Semitism".

But speaking to BBC News, Mr Ward said: "I am a liberal through and through. How on earth could I be racist or be anti-Semitic?

"I would defy anybody to find one single derogatory comment I've made against a Jew which was not related to something being done in Israel."

Mr Ward was elected MP for Bradford East in 2010, but lost his seat in 2015 to Labour.

He had previously stood as the Lib Dem candidate for Bradford North in a by-election in 1990 and three general elections in 1992, 2001 and 2005, but was unsuccessful.

He sits on Bradford City Council, having been elected for the Bolton and Undercliffe ward last year.