Are the Liberal Democrats taking this allegation of anti-Semitism seriously?


In yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman (a gent of Jewish extraction) started off his response by slamming the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories. Maintaining this Lib Dem-bashing theme (here here), Sir Gerald accused his Liberal Democrat opponent in the recent election of trying to use anti-Semitism to win votes:

I say something else to the Liberal Democrats: they will have to indulge in some internal house cleaning. Their candidate against me at the general election, Qassim Afzal, went round the constituency to mosques and other places where Muslims gather, telling people to vote against me because I am a Jew. That is what their candidate did. I was told that again and again by Muslim voters. My Muslim voters are possessed of a decency and generosity of spirit utterly alien to the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency, because they organised for me as they never had before and voted for me in many thousands.

The incidents that took place in my constituency as part of an anti-Semitic campaign went on and on. One of my constituents, a Muslim, told me how the Liberal Democrat candidate Qassim Afzal came to his house, which had a poster of mine in the window, and said, “You cannot have a poster in your window of a Jew. Take it down.” I told two Liberal Democrat Members before Parliament was dissolved that that was what their candidate in Gorton was doing. They were horrified. They said that they would bring it to the attention of their leadership. I do not know whether they did. I do know that their Liberal Democrat candidate, against the decency and humanity of my Muslim constituents, went on conducting an anti-Semitic campaign right through to polling day.

I say to the Liberal Democrat leader, now the Deputy Prime Minister, that if he did not know about that before, he should have done. His MPs told me that they had told him. He knows about it now. I will wait to see what he does to deal with an overtly anti-Semitic candidate who fought an anti-Semitic, and personally anti-Semitic, election campaign. If the Deputy Prime Minister does not take swift action to deal with that person, I will know that he accepts that anti-Semitism is a run-of-the-mill form of campaigning by Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] Well, it is up to him. That is what their candidate did, disgusting thousands of Muslims in my constituency. It is up to the Liberal Democrats to decide whether those are acceptable campaigning tactics.

The thing is, Qassim Afzal is not just an ordinary Lib Dem (if such a thing is possible…). He has been a Lib Dem candidate in many previous elections and a Lib Dem councillor. Plus he sits as an elected member on the Federal Executive of the party alongside Clegg, Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and other bigwigs.

His website is quite amusing. He seems quite a, um, character. I couldn’t be bothered to trawl through his 9 page CV to establish if he’d ever been a member of an anti-Semitic organisation. Hopefully the Lib Dems will themselves investigate to see whether such a prominent member of their party engaged in these disgusting anti-Semitic tactics, as Kaufman claims.  


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