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Bradford East MP’s suspension is ended by party
David Ward is celebrating a return to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party after his two-month suspension was lifted.
But the Bradford East MP immediately vowed he would continue to call for the demise of what he calls the “apartheid state of Israel”, the cause of the bust-up.
Mr Ward was automatically reinstated to the party at midnight, which means he can vote alongside Lib Dem colleagues and is included in party communications.
He was suspended after sending a tweet reading: “Am I wrong or am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”
Party leader Nick Clegg was furious, accusing Mr Ward of going beyond legitimate criticism by questioning “the right of Israel to exist” – something he described as “totally unacceptable”.
In a stern letter, chief whip Alistair Carmichael said the MP had broken an earlier undertaking to use language about Israel that was “proportionate and precise”.
Last month, questioned by the Telegraph & Argus, the Lib Dem leader hinted the suspension might continue and a further meeting was expected.
Mr Ward also appeared to escalate the row, alleging the chief whip had accused him of speaking out against Israel to “court the Muslim vote”.
But, in the end, the party whip was restored without any further guarantees being sought from Mr Ward and after a single conversation with a junior whip.
A Lib Dem source said: “The suspension was for a finite period only so, in terms of party process, there was no need for a further meeting with David.”
The delighted Bradford East MP said: “My computer system has been turned back on, so it’s business as usual.”
Asked if he would continue to campaign for an end to the “apartheid” nature of Israel, he replied: “I hope that everybody does that – nothing has changed.
“My objection is to what I believe is an apartheid state there. I don’t think that can continue – as do many people, including Jimmy Carter, the former US president.”
Mr Clegg has said his MPs are perfectly entitled to make outspoken criticisms of Israel – as long as they back party policy of a two-state solution.
The suspension was lifted on the eve of tomorrow’s opening of the party’s annual conference in Glasgow which Mr Ward will attend.