Starmer: Berger being forced out was 'stain' on party

Jewish ex-MP Luciana Berger, who left UK Labour over antisemitism, rejoins party

Former lawmaker accepts leader Keir Starmer’s written apology and invitation to come back; says party has ‘turned a significant corner’ since he succeeded Jeremy Corbyn

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger speaks during a press conference to announce the new political party, The Independent Group, in London, February 18, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
Former Labour MP Luciana Berger speaks during a press conference to announce the new political party, The Independent Group, in London, February 18, 2019. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Prominent former UK Labour lawmaker Luciana Berger, who left the party over antisemitism, said Saturday she would return to the opposition party at the invitation of its leader, Sir Keir Starmer.

Berger tweeted that “the Labour Party has turned a significant corner under Keir’s leadership.”

“I’m pleased to be returning to my political home,” she wrote, and said she is “looking forwards to re-joining the party.”

Berger, 41, resigned from Labour in 2019 under former chief Jeremy Corbyn, whom she accused of not doing enough to stamp out institutional antisemitism in the party. She later campaigned unsuccessfully for a rival party.

In her response to Starmer’s invitation to return, Berger wrote that Labour “fell into the depths of the abyss under Jeremy Corbyn’s reign”

“I never expected to bear witness to the volume and toxicity of anti-Jewish racism espoused by people who had been allowed to join Labour, and to experience a leadership that treated antisemitism within the party’s ranks differently to every other kind of racism – and that by refusing to condemn it, encouraged it,” she wrote. “But that is exactly what happened.”

Starmer took over as Labour leader in 2020 after Corbyn stepped down following the party’s defeat in elections.

He shared the letter that he had sent to Berger, tweeting: “My test for change was whether those who were rightly appalled by how far we had fallen believe this is their party again.”

“You left because you were forced out by intimidation, thuggery and racism,” Starmer said in the letter. “Yours was a principled and brave move. But it was one you should never have been forced to take. That day will forever be a stain on Labour’s history.”

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2020 found Labour guilty of unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

Corbyn rejected some of the findings, leading to him being suspended from the party.

In her letter to Starmer, Berger wrote “it gave me no pleasure or comfort that the party had been found guilty of harassment of its Jewish members.”

However, she said that she was “pleased” that under Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party had received a clean bill of health from the UK’s anti-racism watchdog.

Berger, who was an MP in Liverpool, left Labour in February 2019, calling it “institutionally antisemitic.” She later that year ran for Parliament as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Finchley and Golders Green – perhaps the most heavily Jewish constituency in Britain. She was defeated by Labour’s Mike Freer.

Illustrative: Keir Starmer, left, and Jeremy Corbyn at the House of Commons in London, Monday November 26, 2018 (House of Commons / PA via AP)

Prior to quitting Labour, Berger, who had served as the director of Labour Friends of Israel, faced a no confidence vote, later canceled, by local party members who said she was “continuously criticizing” leader Corbyn amid the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the party. Someone called her a “disruptive Zionist.”

After leaving Labour she formed The Independent Group with six other resigning MPs from Labour 2019. The party later became Change UK but Berger left in June 2019.

Starmer has said Corbyn will not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the next election.

JTA contributed to this report.

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