By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
David Ward, a Liberal Democrat MP, has been forced to apologise after suggesting on Twitter, that he would consider firing rockets into Israel if he lived in Gaza, again highlighting the dangers of elected officials using social media.
Originally he refused to say sorry and he faced losing the party whip. On Tuesday, Mr Ward was accused of inciting violence after he tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes.”
Following outrage aimed at the Lib Dem MP’s “vile comments” on Twitter about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication and social media expert, Dave Hart said:
“David Ward follows a long line of politicians who have found twitter an impactful platform when it comes to finding an audience for their controversial views. He’s also discovered how having a fairly modest following (of just over 6,000) is no barrier to finding a large audience for his views.
“Whilst it’s refreshing to see politicians unafraid to air their views in public in such a direct way, they need to have a greater awareness of the impact of such social media outbursts on themselves and their party. It’s interesting to note that Mr Ward uses twitter largely as a broadcast platform and rarely replies to individual tweets – although he may be just keeping a low profile given the fuss caused by this particular tweet.” However, the damage might already be done.
The Bradford East MP may still be disciplined and will meet Don Foster, the Lib Dem Chief Whip, to discuss his position. The Board of Deputies of British Jews urged Nick Clegg to withdraw the party whip from Mr Ward, whose membership was suspended for two months last year following previous outspoken remarks about Israel.
However, the party released a lengthy statement from Ward, which said: “I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.
“However, 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 who are facing untold suffering. More must be done by the world community to end this humanitarian crisis and protect the families living in Gaza. I can understand their plight and desperation.”
A Lib Dem spokesman said: “This is a categorical apology from David Ward. In light of this apology, the party and the whips will decide in due course if further disciplinary action should be taken.”
MP’s might need to carefully consider their tweets in future, as the whole world is watching.