What is wrong with the Liberal Democrats?

We haven’t got all day, so let me rephrase that: what is wrong with the Liberal Democrats when it comes to anti-semitism?

Any party is at some risk from people with unpleasant views. After all, when someone joins in the first place there’s limited scrutiny of them – so sometimes every party turns out to have horrible members, often exposed in the press. Normally they then expel them.

More rarely, such people manage to keep their views under wraps so well that they become candidates before they come to light. Each party also has suffered a few more serious incidents like this. Again, when exposed they are normally ditched, sharpish.

Not so in the Liberal Democrats, it seems, who have reselected David Ward – a man with a horrendous track record of ranting about “the Jews”, who recites anti-semitic tropes about the wealth and power of jewish people, and who said in 2014 that he would “probably” fire a rocket into Israel if he lived in Gaza (his subsequent faux apology implied his critics had misunderstood his remarks).

I asked in 2014 “What does David Ward have to do to get kicked out of the Lib Dems?” Once voters had kicked him out of Parliament, the question seemed academic, but it beggars belief that Tim Farron’s party have now reselected him.

Tim Farron’s stance on this selection is absurd. The Lib Dem leader says Ward’s comments were “deeply offensive, wrong and anti-semitic,” but also claims “I don’t select our individual candidates and nor should I.” This demonstrably isn’t true – only yesterday Lib Dem HQ suspended a parliamentary candidate for posting anti-Semitic material online.

It’s clearly possible for Farron to act – his party told the Daily Mail proudly that they acted in this other case in just one minute. So why, after several years, haven’t they acted against Ward?

We should remember that the Lib Dems have form on this. It took them 12 years, including repeated offences, suspensions and reinstatements, before they got round to expelling Jenny Tonge. She, too, had wheeled out anti-semitic tropes about wealth and power, and she, too, had said that if she was a Palestinian then she might well commit terrorist attacks against Israel.

The moral from the Tonge case is that if you indulge such people’s racism, they continue to propagate it. Farron’s party failed to learn that lesson from her over the course of 12 shameful years. Four years into the Ward saga, they show no sign of becoming any tougher on him. Perhaps he’ll finally be expelled in another eight years’ time.