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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 January, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Kennedy defends sacking decision
Mr Kennedy sacked Dr Tonge on Friday
Charles Kennedy has defended his decision to sack one of his frontbench team over comments she made about Palestinian suicide bombers.

Jenny Tonge said she might consider becoming a suicide bomber if she had lived under Israeli occupation.

Mr Kennedy told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme: "There can be no formal role for someone who has given voice to such a view."

Dr Tonge has insisted her remarks did not condone suicide bombers.

But Mr Kennedy said: "The correct decision was quite simply if you are in an elected position of responsibility then even to convey the perception that somehow there is an ethical defence to be made of somebody who wants to be a suicide bomber is simply not acceptable.


"I have noted over the course of the weekend that politicians from other parties have gone on record as saying that they felt I took the right decision."

Mr Kennedy's decision to sack Dr Tonge from her post as the party's spokeswoman for children came on Friday after she was repeatedly criticised over her remarks.

Dr Tonge said she understood what she said may have upset some people but insisted she was not condoning violence.

Jenny Tonge
Dr Tonge is stepping down as an MP at the next election
"My remarks were taken out of context and they were misinterpreted by a lot of the sections of the press and that meant that the Liberal Democrat party was being smeared by the misinterpretation of what I had said," she told Sky's Sunday with Adam Boulton programme.

In the circumstances Mr Kennedy had been "totally right" to ask her to stand down.

"I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand and was trying to understand where [suicide bombers] were coming from," Dr Tonge told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday.

Israel's ambassador to London welcomed her dismissal.

And MP Louise Ellman, a member of the Labour friends of Israel group who had earlier urged Dr Tonge to apologise, was also among those who welcomed Mr Kennedy's decision.

"It recognises that her statement was irresponsible and gave the green light to terrorism," said Ms Ellman.

Dr Tonge is stepping down as MP for Richmond Park in south-west London at the next election.

She was speaking to a pro-Palestinian lobby when she said of Palestinian suicide bombers: "If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself."

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Charles Kennedy was shocked by Jenny Tonge's remarks"

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