Tim Farron: Ex-MP David Ward standing for the Liberal Democrats is 'wrong'
Tim Farron has criticised the selection of controversial former MP David Ward as a Liberal Democrat candidate for the coming election.
The Lib Dem leader described previous comments from Mr Ward as “offensive, wrong and anti-Semitic” – but said it was not for him to intervene in the candidate selection process.
Mr Ward has been chosen to stand in Bradford East, the seat he held from 2010 to 2015.
In 2013 he accused “the Jews” of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians” and had the party whip withdrawn for three months.
Since then, he has said he “probably would” fire rockets into Israel if he lived in Gaza, claimed “Zionists” were “winning despite the appalling racism of the state of Israel and its supporters”, and praised Labour MP Naz Shah for a social media post which she herself later admitted was anti-Semitic.
Mr Ward also appeared to blame the actions of the British Government for last month’s attack in Westminster, saying “all terrorist attacks in UK stem from our foreign policy”.
Mr Farron said he disagreed with the former MP’s comments, and pledged to take a robust stand against anti-Semitism.
“I am fully aware of the comments David Ward has made in the past and I find them deeply offensive, wrong and anti-Semitic,” he said.
“I think his decision to stand again, and the local party’s decision to select him, is wrong and I disagree with it completely.
“I don't select our individual candidates and nor should I. But let me be clear, I won't tolerate anti-Semitism in my party.
“David Ward has been disciplined in the past and if he or anyone else makes anti-Semitic remarks in this campaign I will expect the party to act quickly and decisively, as we did when we suspended a candidate in Luton South yesterday.”
The party took action against Ashuk Ahmed, who was hoping to stand for the party, after a flurry of posts comparing Zionists to Nazis emerged.
Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also criticised Mr Ward’s comments on the Westminster terror attack.
“I’m afraid it shows that the Lib Dems, as ever, are totally confused when it comes to the issues of the national interest,” he told LBC.
“Terrorism is terrorism and, once you start trying to justify it, you go down a slippery slope and I think that’s something most British people know immediately is completely the wrong thing to do.”
A spokesperson for the Board of Deputies said the selection of Mr Ward was “deeply disappointing... and very embarrassing for the Liberal Democrats”.