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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 19:41 GMT
Tonge 'in trouble' over comments
Jenny Tonge
Baroness Tonge was reprimanded by Sir Menzies Campbell
A Liberal Democrat peer has met party whips over claims she repeated remarks critical of the political influence of the "pro-Israeli lobby".

Baroness Tonge told a meeting at the party conference in September that the lobby had "got its grips on the world".

She was reprimanded for those comments but is now accused of repeating them.

She told the BBC she was "in trouble again". Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell is considering whether any action should be taken against her.

A party spokesman said after the meeting: "The leader of the Liberal Democrats and the chief whip in the Lords have made a recommendation with regard to Jenny Tonge. Menzies Campbell is considering this overnight."

'Not challenged'

The party has the power to withdraw the whip, which would remove her from the Lib Dem group of peers in the House of Lords, if it was unsatisfied with her explanation at the meeting.

Baroness Tonge said she had not repeated the remarks but had merely cited academics in their defence.

She said that, at the Edinburgh University meeting last week, she had been asked to explain her comments and had described "extensive" US academic research.

Another speaker, from the Israeli embassy, "did not challenge me during the meeting at all", she added.

If someone makes comments that are so at odds with what the party feels... then one would hope that they are no longer made welcome in the party itself
John Benjamin
Board of Deputies of British Jews

Baroness Tonge said: "My [earlier] comments were about the Israeli lobby in politics. They were a big distance from being about Jewishness or anti-Semitism."

She went on: "The comments were political and about the state of Israel and its government."

At the party conference in September, she said: "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they've probably got a grip on our party."

Sir Menzies later branded the comments "unacceptable", "contrary to the principles of the party" and said they cast "an unjustified slur on its leadership".

He wrote to the baroness, saying the remarks had "clear anti-Semitic connotations".

John Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "If someone makes comments that are so at odds with what the party feels, and hopefully at odds with common decency, then one would hope that they are no longer made welcome in the party itself."

The baroness - then Jenny Tonge - was sacked as a frontbench MP in 2004 for saying she "might just consider becoming" a suicide bomber if she was Palestinian, although she insisted she was not condoning such attacks.

Ahead of the whips' hearing on Monday, she said: "I'm in trouble again. I'm usually in trouble about something."

She added: "I'm not in politics for a career and never was. I'm in politics to feel passionately about things."

Party whips also spoke to the baroness following her comments at the conference.

She was formerly a spokeswoman on international development and children's issues.

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25 Jan 04 |  UK Politics
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23 Jan 04 |  UK Politics
Profile: Jenny Tonge
23 Jan 04 |  UK Politics

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