By sharing an article about “Jewish power” in British politics, former Lib Dem peer Baroness Jenny Tonge was not being racist, according to the Liberal Democrats.
The ruling, from the party’s Regional Parties Committee, follows a complaint from Gary Spedding, a liberal activist in Northern Ireland, who took issue with Tonge sharing an article by Israeli musician Gilad Atzmon.
Tonge, who is a strong critic of Israel, is no longer a Lib Dem peer and sits in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher. While she remains a member of the party, she does not speak for it in an official capacity.
Relaying the decision, a Lib Dem spokeswoman says: “Having reviewed your complaint, our view is that an opinion can be controversial – and even offensive – but still fall short of being racist.”
She explained: “We are a liberal party that places immense value on freedom of speech… That includes the freedom to criticise in the strongest terms the actions of states and governments and the causal effects of their policies… Any desire not to offend also needs to be balanced against the right to criticise in the strongest terms the actions of states and governments.”
Spedding, who had called for Tonge to be thrown out of the party altogether, said was left “speechless” by the response to the complaint.