In 1896, Sir Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling), Liberal MP for Whitechapel, sent Gladstone a copy of Theodor Herzl's Der Judenstaat, translated into English by Sylvie d'Avigdor, daughter of a well-known Jewish communal leader. The pamphlet appeared in April, and Gladstone received it hot off the press.
In a postcard to Sir Samuel, Gladstone gave a verdict of sorts contained in the following extract (his entire reply was reproduced in facsimile form in the Jewish Chronicle, 29 May 1896):
"The subject of your enclosure is most interesting: not easy for one outside to form an opinion on: impertinent, perhaps, to speak it were it formed. I am surprised, however, to see the misery of the Jews so broadly stated. Of course, I am strongly anti-anti-Semitism."Fast forward to 2013. Conservative MP Robert Halfon, mindful of the shocking antisemitism openly manifested in recent times by certain members of the Lib Dem party, asked party leader Nick Clegg (on whom, so to speak, the mantle of Gladstone has fallen) whether he would "take action" against party members who bring such offence and distress to Jewish people. Was Clegg's answer as robust as might have been wished? You decide (hat tip: reader Ian):