Tonge: Clegg acted “very hastily and ill-advisedly” in issuing apologise-or-resign ultimatum

Here’s the Press Association report of Baroness (Jenny) Tonge’s BBC interview following her resignation this week over controversial remarks about the future of Israel:

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge has claimed her party leader Nick Clegg acted “hastily” in quickly disowning her after she said Israel “would not be there forever”. She was forced to give up the party whip after the Deputy Prime Minister told her to apologise or resign hours after her comments to students at Middlesex University were revealed.

During a talk at the university, she claimed Israel would “reap what it has sown” if the United States decided to withdraw its support, telling students the country “would not be there forever”.

She was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if she thought Mr Clegg was justified in disowning her. Baroness Tonge replied: “I think (he acted) very hastily and I think ill-advisedly. He’s going to have a lot of flak about it, I do know that. Of course, I always have an enormous amount of flak and I am quite used to that. But I have also had an enormous amount of support.”

The peer – twice fired from the frontbench previously for anti-Israel outbursts – said she stood by her remarks.

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  • Andrew Tennant 3rd Mar '12 - 1:39pm

    Advice, from Jenny Tonge, on considered statements and avoiding controversy.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  • “Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tonge has claimed her party leader Nick Clegg acted “hastily” in quickly disowning her after she said Israel “would not be there forever”.”

    To be accurate, she said Israel “is not going to be there for ever in its present form“.

  • David from Ealing 3rd Mar '12 - 4:53pm

    And no-one who wants a two state solution can deny that.

  • Neither of course, can anyone who wants a sustainable one state solution. Most of us know that Israel has to change course radically in order to live sustainably with its neighbours.

  • Tim13 – well said. A non-sectarian Palestine with equal rights for all religions and ethnic groups was always the policy of the Young Liberals. Sure, it’s not going to happen any day soon, but a two-state solution merely entrenches existing divisions.

  • Tonge’s statement was fine, it is her own personal opinion. Nick Clegg seems to be wearing his conservative hat as of late, if he continues on this path he will lose his party.

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Mar '12 - 10:34pm

    @Soupy One:

    “Jenny Tonge’s statements make the LibDems seem like a party that habours or tolerance extremists.”

    Do you really mean that? You think it’s the place for people like you?” I doubt that, somewhat.

  • Leekliberal 4th Mar '12 - 3:31pm

    OK so Jenny’s comments were a little over the top but what has happened to our respect for free speech and debate in the party. I regret that she has had the party whip removed from her. It’s all a bit…… illiberal!

  • Daniel Jones 4th Mar '12 - 3:59pm

    To those suggesting the ultimatum was somehow illiberal, no-one has denied her right to free speech. What is denied is her ability to represent the party while spouting those views – and let’s not try to molly coddle the good Baroness, she knew exactly what she was saying and the controversy it would cause (She is not a virgin debutant to this ball, after all). Clegg offered her the opportunity to reel the comments back in, and had she taken that and stayed on the bench Clegg would have taken a whole heap of attacks for allowing her to remain. There are certain things you have to accept when you take a post represeting the party and that is applying a modicum of moderation to your comments. She was unable or unwilling to do this, and so her continuation as a party representative was impossible – she has not, as far as I am aware, been excluded from the party, and nor should she.

  • Simon

    She was quoted in the press as having said “in its present form”, but certainly in the video she appears to say “in its present performance.” Perhaps she “misspoke.”

    Either way, she was making some qualification, so it’s misleading to remove it when reporting her words, even if you don’t understand what she meant.

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