Nick Clegg: angry liberal

Drama and political passion over at the Jewish Chronicle, where Nick Clegg vows to Martin Bright that he will not silence controverial Lib Dem peer Baroness (Jenny) Tonge, whose outspoken comments on the Israeli-Palestine conflict have in the past landed her in hot water.

Nick Clegg is angry. No, it’s beyond angry. Incandescent almost gets it, but that still doesn’t capture the full fury of the man as he leans forward from his chair in the Liberal Democrat leader’s office in the House of Commons.

The accusation that Mr Clegg had failed to honour his commitment to act against the pro-Palestinian Lib Dem peer Jenny Tonge if she made antisemitic remarks on his watch has hit something very close to his political soul. “The very suggestion that I might explicitly or tacitly give cover for racism, I find politically abhorrent and personally deeply offensive,” he says.

And on the conflict itself:

He is keen to clarify his position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. “The starting point has got to be the full recognition of Israel, security for Israeli citizens and a viable Palestinian state. Do I think that the objective of peace and two communities living side by side, in their own secure nationhood, can be pursued by the terrorism of Hamas or the deployment of disproportionate force by the Israeli military? No, I don’t.”

The Lib Dem leader describes himself as a supporter of the doctrine of “liberal interventionism” and claims not to be squeamish about the use of force by a country to protect its citizens. But he remains convinced that the nature of Israel’s response did not serve its best interests. “It seems to me to run the risk of strengthening the hands of extremists within the Palestinian community,” he says.

There are also some very interesting exchanges on multiculturalism, the place of young Muslim men in their community, community as an antidote to extremism, and the Liberal Moment pamphlet, which prompts Bright to suggest he is the first Lib Dem leader of recent times to articulate the liberal case for a return to prominence “with any intellectual rigour”.  You can read the full article here.

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5 Comments

  • I think we need to get away from the idea that the Jewish community somehow guns for Tonge because she is outspoken on Israel-Palestine. That just isn’t true, plenty of politicians have equally passionate views. The problem is that Jenny Tonge thinks she can get away with using racist themes and perpetuating dangerous canards about minorities in this country. Nick needs to think carefully about whether our parliamentarians can go around stirring up prejudice while continiuing to represent the Liberal Democrats.

  • Paul, Jenny Tonge has said nothing racist, so think before you start misusing a word noöne actually uses correctly anymore to bring down someone. If we do live in a society where free expression and opinions are considered imperative, then isn’t censoring someone because their view, which in many ways is quite valid, completely hypocritical?

  • Phil, you would have to be living under a rock not to realise that the line:

    “The pro-Israeli Lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a certain grip on our party”

    has profoundly racist connotations. It is precisely the language used by fascists in this country for the past 60 years – and it also happens to be a lie. Indeed, it actually earned her praise on the Nazi website Stormfront, where she was described as “wise and courageous”. Great PR!

    “Courageous,” as it happens, also being the term she used to describe those who glorify Hamas, an organisation whose charter is an explicitly racist document, and whose representatives in Britain she cheerfully shares platforms with. I don’t seek to censor anyone. I just don’t think that people who endorse terrorism and give succor to far-right extremists ought to be speaking for a liberal party. Either she’s genuinely content to indulge textbook antisemitic themes or she’s a moron. Either way, she doesn’t speak for me.

  • Martin Kinsella 20th Sep '09 - 4:18pm

    Paul Evans plays the race card.

    Pathetic.

  • If you believe that opposing racism is not pathetic then perhaps you are in the wrong party.

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