Sir Keir Starmer urged to invite Luciana Berger back into Labour to rid party of anti-Semitism

Christopher Hope
·4-min read
Sir Keir is due to address the Jewish Labour Movement - Labour Party/PA
Sir Keir is due to address the Jewish Labour Movement - Labour Party/PA

Sir Keir Starmer should "bend his knee" and invite Luciana Berger - who quit Labour over anti-Semitism and fought the party at the last election - to rejoin Labour, the Government's anti-Semitism tzar says on Sunday.

Lord Mann of Holbeck - who as Labour MP John Mann campaigned against anti-Semitism in the party - says Sir Keir "must open his arms to and, if necessary, bend his knee" to ask Jewish former Labour MPs to rejoin the party.

Ms Berger quit as Labour MP for Wavertree from 2010 to February last year after suffering anti-semitic abuse. She then joined the Independent Group of MPs before running as a Liberal Democrat candidate at last December's election.

The peer also says Sir Keir should welcome back Dame Louise Ellman, who resigned from the Labour Party in October last year, expressing concern over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and a potential Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

The peer's comments coincide with an address Sir Keir is due to give to the Jewish Labour Movement later on Sunday when he will say that "people across our Jewish communities are hurt" and that he is determined to root out anti-Semitism from his party.

Profile | Keir Starmer MP
Profile | Keir Starmer MP

Writing in Sunday's Telegraph, Lord Mann says Sir Keir "needs to demonstrate precisely how the Labour Party will be welcoming to Jewish people".

He says: "The Leader of the Opposition has no power to run the Government, but they can prove their leadership qualities by demonstrating their command of their own Party. Not only the Jewish Labour Movement will be listening in today."

Lord Mann says: "He must outline not just how he will remove the anti-Semites, but how he will give a simple choice to the comforters who give them space. He must leave no middle ground.

"He needs to embrace the reality that most British Jews define themselves as Zionists. It is their identity, who they are.

"Their reality, not just their dream. He must make Zionism a term of endearment not a term of abuse and banish from his party those who defile the right of Jewish people to determine for themselves their own identity.

"Sir Keir must open his arms to and, if necessary, bend his knee and ask Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger to return to their true home. Only then will the path to decency begin to fully open out."

Lord Mann adds: "Without a deep and enthusiastic Jewish involvement then the Labour Party can have no soul. But neither can our political life in this country."

In his speech, Sir Keir will tell the Jewish Labour Movement on Sunday: "I know people across our Jewish communities are hurt and I am not blind to that.

“There is anger at the injustices of recent years and a deep sense of frustration that this issue has all too often been about a few individuals, rather than people who have been so badly let down.

“I am as determined today as when I was elected Labour leader to fix this. ... But, we cannot fix the processes without fixing the culture within our party. I want all members to feel that the Labour Party is a safe environment to debate and to discuss ideas. Labour meetings should not be an unsafe or hostile place for anyone.

“My mission is the same as yours: to make the Labour Party a safe place for Jewish people. Together, I believe we can make that happen.”

A spokesman for Sir Keir told the Telegraph on Saturday night: “We are not going to speak on behalf of former colleagues, such as Luciana and Louise." Party sources said Sir Keir did speak to both former MPs the day before the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report was published.

Last month, the EHRC ruled that Labour had broken the law by failing to prevent "acts of harassment and discrimination" and said Mr Corbyn's leadership "did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it".

Last week Labour appointed Jane Ramsey, an expert on standards in public and political life, as a senior adviser on Standards and Ethics responsible for the implementation of the commission's recommendations.