David Ward (British politician)

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David Ward
Mr David Ward MP.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Bradford East
In office
6 May 2010 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Imran Hussain
Personal details
Born (1953-06-24) 24 June 1953 (age 65)
Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats (suspended)[1]
Spouse(s) Jackie
Children 2 sons
Occupation Politician
Website http://davidward.org.uk/

David Ward (born 24 June 1953) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bradford East at the 2010 general election.[2] He lost his seat in 2015 when he was defeated by the Labour Party candidate Imran Hussain by 7,000 votes.[3] Before his election to parliament, he was a councillor in Bradford for 26 years, and returned to local politics in 2016.[4] In July 2013, he was suspended from the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary party until September 2013, after questioning the continuing existence of the state of Israel and refusing to apologise for his remarks.[5][6][7]

Early life and career[edit]

Early life: lecturer and Bradford City F.C.[edit]

David Ward was born in Lincoln; his father was a plumber, and his mother worked on farms, in a canning factory and then in a care home.[8] He attended Boston Grammar School in Boston, Lincolnshire, and then qualified as a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in 1976.[9] He attended the University of Bradford Management Centre to complete an MBA and an MPhil by research.[9][10]

He began working at Leeds Polytechnic (later Leeds Metropolitan University) in 1985, remaining there for the next 18 years as a Principal Lecturer in finance and strategic management, and as a Business Development Manager in charge of External Income Generation.[11] In 1996, he obtained an MSc from the University of Leicester.[12]

In July 2004, he was seconded from Leeds Metropolitan University to work at Bradford City Football Club on a full-time basis[11] to help the club to build links with the local community and to engage with the predominantly Pakistani-Bangladeshi community that surrounds the club in Manningham.[13][14] It is now host to a positive lifestyle centre, which has run programmes for more than 11,000 school children in the past seven years. There is also the football club in the community scheme, which works with 130 of Bradford’s schools.[15] On 5 May 2012, the football museum[which?] was closed down.[16] Work began to turn the museum into a free school to be run by the One in a Million charity,[17] but a week before the start of the school term in September the funding was pulled for the school.[18][19][20] Ward called the move to pull the funding for the school as being "callous, cruel and quite stupid...and incredibly unfair on the parents and children and One in a Million."[21][22]

Bradford public career[edit]

Ward was first elected to Bradford Metropolitan District Councillor in 1984, and served for 26 years until he was elected to Parliament in 2010.[4][23] His specialist area was education;[8] he was a Governor for 30 years at several Special, Primary and Secondary Schools[24][25][26][27] and held the Education Portfolio on the council for four years.[28] Whilst holding this post he visited Kashmir with a Primary school and Secondary school headteacher to try to forge links with local schools.[29]

In 2006, he worked with others to organise the first-ever community day for the Manningham area, and his work at the club was acknowledged later that year when Leeds Metropolitan University won the Times Higher Education Supplement Award for "Outstanding contribution to the local community".[30]

The charity set up by Ward focused mainly on anti-racist interventions and community cohesion events,[30] and he continues to support organisations such as the Sports Campaign Against Racism (SCAR).[31]

He was the Liberal Democrat candidate at the Bradford North by-election in 1990, and after his defeat he stood again in Bradford North at the general elections in 1992, 2001 and 2005.[32]

In 2005, he came second, 3,500 votes behind the incumbent Labour Party MP Terry Rooney. Bradford North was abolished in boundary changes for the general election in May 2010; Ward was elected for the new Bradford East seat, with a majority of 365 votes over Rooney.

Parliamentary career[edit]

He was a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee from June 2010 to June 2012, when he became a member of the Education Select Committee.[33]


Comments on the Holocaust[edit]

On 25 January 2013, the Liberal Democrats reprimanded Ward for his "use of language" in a statement on his website about Israel's treatment of Palestinians, which he put on his blog the same day that he signed a memorial book in the House of Commons marking Holocaust Memorial Day.[34] He wrote there that he honoured "those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust" but also commented: "Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza".[34][35] "It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated", he said in a later statement.[34]

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust, causing deep pain and offence – these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics". Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience."[35] On Twitter, National Union of Students education officer Rachel Wenstone accused him of "casual antisemitism" and Ian Austin, a Labour Member of Parliament, accused him of "racism".[36]

When asked on Sky News if he was not accusing Jews, rather than the Israeli state, of persecuting Palestinians, he replied: "I'm accusing the Jews who did it, so if you're a Jew and you did not do it I'm not accusing you. I'm saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons".[36] In an updated blog entry on 26 January he stated he had "never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused" and stated that while his "criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever" he was "trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust".[37][38]

In a meeting with Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats chief whip, Ward was told he would face disciplinary action if he repeated these words, and was given a written warning, equivalent to a yellow card according to a party spokesman.[39][40] Clegg instructed Ward to meet Liberal Democrat peer Baron Carlile and Baroness Neuberger, a cross-bencher, to discuss the issue in May 2013. The meeting was intended to be confidential until it had concluded; however, Ward asked for advice on Twitter beforehand, and the two Jewish peers then withdrew. Another meeting Ward was to attend, this time with the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel in February 2013 over his use of language, did not occur because he had not removed contentious phrasing from his website.[41]

Comments on Israel[edit]

Ward tweeted on 13 July 2013: "Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the apartheid State of Israel last?" He refused to apologise for questioning Israel's right to exist, and was suspended from the Liberal Democrats parliamentary party for three months following a meeting with leader Nick Clegg and his deputy Simon Hughes.[6][42]

In a letter to Ward in July 2013 just before the parliamentary recess, he was admonished by the Liberal Democrats' chief whip Alistair Carmichael who reminded him of his failure to keep a previous promise to use "proportionate and precise" language when commenting on Israel.[43] In his letter to Ward, Carmichael wrote: "These interventions cause considerable offence rather than addressing questions of political substance about the plight of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel's citizens to live a life free of violence".[44][45] Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, described the decision to take away Ward's party whip as "too little, too late" and "an empty gesture" because of the parliamentary recess.[46] Parliament was due to sit for only two weeks in September 2013 before the end of his suspension.[44] Ward objected to his suspension believing his views are widely shared. The Respect MP for Bradford West, George Galloway, defended Ward against his suspension, as did several Muslim activists in his constituency.[43]

In an interview with Aida Edemariam of The Guardian in February 2013, Ward said: "There is a huge operation out there, a machine almost, which is designed to protect the state of Israel from criticism. And that comes into play very, very quickly" with the result "I end up looking at" the vocabulary "I should use" which "is winning, for them. Because what I want to talk about is the fundamental question of how can they do this, and how can they be allowed to do this".[8]

Comments on the Board of Deputies[edit]

In November 2013, after Ward had said that it is "a shame there isn’t a powerful, well-funded Board of Deputies for Roma", in an editorial The Jewish Chronicle described his comments as "a clear restatement of the most basic antisemitic theme of all — that wealthy Jews buy up power" and said that the Liberal Democrats' had made a "contemptible response" with their inaction.[47]

Comments on Hamas rockets[edit]

Ward tweeted in July 2014 about the ongoing Israeli conflict in Gaza suggesting that if he lived in Gaza, he would fire rockets at Israel: "The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes". Interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live, he initially refused to apologise.[48]

Ward was condemned by other politicians. Grant Shapps, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, called the tweet "essentially [an] incitement to violence" and "completely irresponsible". Shapps urged him to delete the comment.[48][49] A Liberal Democrat spokesperson called the tweet "vile and crass"; the party leader Nick Clegg had called for peace in Israel and Gaza.[50][51] Gavin Stollar, chair of the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel, said Ward was "an ignorant political opportunist" who "is neither a Liberal nor a Democrat".[52]

An apology was issued under his name by his party in late July.[53] "I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza" he said, and "while I defend the right of Israel to exist and defend itself, I will continue to speak out for the rights of the Palestinian people".[54] In a response, the Board of Deputies said: "This morning's 'spin' in no way negates the fact that David Ward has deliberately placed himself outside the party’s core beliefs and values. We have seen Ward apologise and receive rebuke before, to no avail".[54]

The following month, it emerged Ward would not face any disciplinary action. The party's chief whip, by now Don Foster, said the comment had not brought the party into disrepute, nor was it antisemitic. Ward had assured Foster "he would do all he could to ensure comments he made would be in a form that would be difficult to misinterpret".[55]

Comments following Charlie Hebdo attack[edit]

During the republican marches in January 2015, following the Charlie Hebdo shooting and Porte de Vincennes hostage crisis during which four French Jews were murdered at a kosher supermarket, he tweeted "Je suis #Palestinian" (a play on the Je suis Charlie slogan) and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presence in Paris "makes [him] feel sick". The tweet was criticised by the Israeli ambassador.[56][57] A Liberal Democrat spokesman said "David Ward does not speak for the Liberal Democrats on this issue. He has well known and strongly held views on this issue but this tweet was clearly in bad taste".[56][57] The comments were also condemned by party leader Nick Clegg.[58][59] Not long afterwards at an event, Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist now a mainstream Liberal Democrat politician, said the Paris victims had been "murdered for being Jewish and no other reason" and asked his audience to acknowledge, if such a situation was reversed for Muslims in someone's tweet, "how hurtful such a sentiment at such a time can be".[60]

Later life[edit]

Ward lost his Bradford East seat at the 2015 general election to Labour's Imran Hussain who gained the seat with a majority of 7,084.[61] Ward returned to local politics as a member of Bradford’s Metropolitan District Council in the May 2016 elections, and was reported to be studying at the time for a Middle East Politics and Security Studies MA at Bradford University.[62]

The Lib Dems reminded Ward of its opposition to antisemitism in May 2016 after he tweeted his support for Naz Shah, the MP for Bradford West whom Labour suspended after she was revealed to have written that Israel should be re-located to the United States.[62]

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into antisemitism in October 2016 when asked about Ward's 2013 suspension that after "a disciplinary process has been gone through" and "they have served their time, then it’s appropriate" for the individual to return to active involvement in a "free organisation as they would do otherwise". Farron said he didn't agree with Ward's comments "some of which I would deem to be anti-semitic".[63]

Ward was initially to contest his former seat of Bradford East at the 2017 general election for the Liberal Democrats.[64] Polling suggested the Liberal Democrats might defeat Imran Hussain, the Labour MP who replaced Ward in 2015, and his national re-emergence briefly became a complication for Farron's party.[1][65] Shortly after Theresa May mentioned his "questionable record on antisemitism" on 26 April in the last prime minister's questions before the election, Ward was removed as the party's candidate and suspended from party membership before an intended independent investigation.[1] Tim Farron said "Ward is unfit to represent the party" and the Liberal Democrats have "zero tolerance" for "anti-Semitic remarks".[66][67] Ward told BBC News: "I would defy anybody to find one single derogatory comment I've made against a Jew which was not related to something being done in Israel".[66] Ward stood as an independent,[68] but Hussain was returned as the constituency MP with a larger majority; Ward came a distant third, but ahead of the Liberal Democrat candidate.[69]

In May 2016 Ward successfully stood in the electoral ward of Bolton and Undercliffe to become a Lib Dem councillor for Bradford Council.[70]


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  69. ^ Casci, Mark (9 June 2017). "Hussain Nets Massive Victoryin Bradford East". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  70. ^ Young, Christ (6 May 2016). "Former Bradford East MP returns to local politics after winning seat on Bradford Council". Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 22 September 2017. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bradford East
Succeeded by
Imran Hussain