I am immensely saddened that it has become necessary for the Lib Dem whip to be removed for two months from David Ward MP (http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23361380). This could so easily have been avoided, if Mr Ward had properly understood and apologised for the offensive connotations of the language that he has continued to use about Israel, the Holocaust and "the Jews", and if he had clarified his meaning to remove the likelihood that an antisemitic or inflammatory inference could be drawn from his words.
His failure to do this left Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael with no choice but to act, for the reasons outlined in Mr Carmichael's cogent and powerful letter to Mr Ward (attached) - and in terms of a party like the Liberal Democrats, this is very strong action indeed. I do not know of a previous occasion, over many decades, that the Liberals, SDP or Lib Dems have ever suspended or removed the whip from an MP in relation to something that the MP had written or said.
This is unprecedented and is a show of strong leadership in the face of the controversy that it will arouse in large parts of my vociferously democratic party - respectfully, those who call this 'too little, too late' are failing to appreciate what a strong, controversial move this is in Lib Dem terms, and it is one that I fully support.
Lib Dems including Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg himself regularly highlight the situation of the Palestinians and have sometimes been strongly critical of Israel and its government. It is right that Liberal Democrats should always be able to be strongly critical of the actions of different countries, and Israel is no exception. Such criticism, however, must never stray into language that has an antisemitic or inflammatory connotation.