Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East David Ward.
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Lib Dem MP David Ward: I would fire rockets at Israel

The whip must be withdrawn.

Almost exactly a year ago, Liberal Democrat MP David Ward had the whip suspended for the summer recess after refusing to apologise for tweeting "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?"

With oddly similar timing (parliament broke up for recess today), the Bradford East MP has again shamed himself on Twitter. "The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes", he wrote, before adding: "Ich bin ein #palestinian - the West must make up its mind - which side is it on?" 

The remarks are an insult to Israeli civilians and, perhaps most of all, to those Palestinians who don't fire rockets. 

Many are now rightly calling for the Lib Dems to finally withdraw the whip for good from Ward; this is far from his first offence. He was previously reprimanded for his "use of language" after he wrote in a blog published the day before Holocaust Memorial Day: "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."

A Labour spokesman said: “At a time when all sides should be working for a ceasefire and a peaceful settlement, it defies belief that a Liberal Democrat MP should tweet something so vile and irresponsible. Nick Clegg must act immediately to disassociate his party from this comment." Conservative chairman Grant Shapps tweeted: "Appalling: No MP should tweet what’s essentially incitement to violence. Mr Ward must withdraw now. Completely irresponsible."

We await the response of the Lib Dems. 

Update: The Lib Dems have now issued a response, stating that they are treating Ward's comments "as a disciplinary issue". A spokesman said: "We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats. The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue.”

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.