Friday, August 02, 2013

Ignored by David Ward

Recently, David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East was suspended from the Party Whip until the eve of Conference in Glasgow over tweets which under some interpretations could question the right of the state of Israel to exist.

On their own, they would probably have sparked an email rebuke from Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael. Sadly, though, this is the latest episode in a long running saga, ever since David's ill-considered comments about "the Jews" on Holocaust Memorial Day this year. He was wrong and subsequently apologised and agreed to work with Simon Hughes and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel to agree proportionate language, although there were news reports of him refusing to undergo such training. The papers were full of it at the time and Nick Clegg was confronted with a "what are you going to do about this?" question every week on his Call Clegg show on LBC.

Ward's July tweets and subsequent suspension therefore came at the end of a six month process. I felt that there had been a huge effort on the part of Alistair Carmichael to sort this out without resorting to such drastic action. More than anything, I felt that he had made it more difficult for those of us who feel that the Israeli Government has a great deal to answer for. We have to be very careful about how we criticise them. . It's to the advantage of that Government if they can frame the debate around the alleged anti-semitism of its critics rather than its own actions. Giving them wiggle room plays their game the way they want it played.

There is also the very obvious point that until both sides are actually talking to each other, nothing is going to change. Any solution is going to require a real commitment from both sides to make peace. And I do believe that it can be done. Who ever would have thought that South Africa could get to where it's got? When I was growing up, a brutal regime committed terrible atrocities. Nelson Mandela had every reason to hate them, but he worked with them to build a new South Africa.It took both sides to show willing. Look at Northern Ireland, with all its history. Again as a child growing up watching violence followed by intemperate language and hatred, it was hard to imagine how that could ever be sorted. Where there's a will, it can happen.

Liberal Democrat Voice asked its members' forum what they thought of the situation and their response was, to me at least, a clear message from a majority of respondents that they want David back in our parliamentary party AND that they want him to moderate his language. That's kind of where I am and that's why I decided to try to strike up a conversation with David on Twitter the other day, in response to another tweet on this vexed subject:

I thought that that was a strange comment. David Ward is in a position to do so much good. It's a huge privilege to be in Parliament and to be able to influence national and international affairs. Why would you spend your time, then, simply inflaming an already heated situation. Why not try to sort it? What good does that sort of comment put into the world. So I waded in.

He didn't reply. He doesn't have to. Who the hell am I after all? But the comments I had from other people showed that it actually was possible to discuss Israel/Palestine on Twitter in a way that illuninates.

It takes a special person who can build up a seat like Bradford East and win it for the Liberal Democrats. His biography on his website speaks of decades of service to the community. I've never met him, but I know plenty who have and they think he's fantastic. I want to see him fight and hold that seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2015 because he's done very many things that I agree with, not least rebelling on those aspects of the welfare reforms that many of us find difficult and unjust. He has a petition against that ghastly spouse's visa income requirement, too.

So, please, can we have the solution that's best for the party? That's David Ward back properly in the Liberal Democrats and using language which will move things on rather than hold them back. Nobody's expecting him to stop criticising the Israeli government, but he just needs to be a bit more careful about how he does it.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails