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The leader of the British Liberal Democrat Party, Sir Menzies Campbell MP, has promised to take disciplinary measures against party member Baroness Jenny Tonge for "clear anti-Semitic connotations" in comments she made at a public meeting last month.
Speaking at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign meeting held on the sidelines of the Liberal Democrat's Party Conference, Tonge said, "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western world, its financial grips. I think they have probably got a certain grip on our party."
The baroness was condemned by her party, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and a host of Jewish organizations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
On Friday, after asking Tonge to explain her remarks, the Liberal Democrat leader issued a statement rebuking her.
In a letter sent to Tonge on Thursday, Menzies said the party rejected her remarks and promised to consider further measures to discipline her for her "offensive remarks."
The party leader said, "I have acted with the maximum powers at my disposal at this time. I have written to Baroness Tonge dissociating myself and the party from her deeply offensive remarks and what I believe to be their clear anti-Semitic connotations. I have asked for a review of the disciplinary powers available to the Liberal Democrat leaders in both the House of Lords and Commons."
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, responded, "Sir Menzies has clearly exposed the subtext of Baroness Tonge's comments and we welcome the fact that her remarks have been disowned by her own party. There should be no place for such statements in reasoned political debate and everyone in public life should be alive to the dangers of such pernicious ideologies."
Gavin Stollar, spokesman for the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said, "We welcome both Sir Menzies's unequivocal condemnation of Jenny Tonge's comments and his categorical distancing of the party from her. As card-carrying members of the Liberal Democrat Party, we do not tolerate or condone racism and/or anti-Semitism in Parliament or elsewhere.
"In the coming days and weeks we will work closely with colleagues inside the party to ensure every avenue is explored towards removing Baroness Tonge from the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords. There is no place for anti-Semitic remarks of this nature in our party," he added.
Tonge was sacked as an MP and as the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for children in January 2004 after expressing support for Palestinian suicide bombers.
Tonge said at the time, "If I had to live in that situation I might just consider becoming one myself."
Tonge was made a peer in May 2005 amid much criticism.
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