Luciana Berger rejoins Labour Party after leaving amid antisemitism row

Luciana Berger is rejoining the Labour Party after leaving four years ago due to concerns about antisemitism.

Ms Berger, originally from Wembley in north-west London and the Liverpool Wavertree MP for almost a decade, walked out on Labour in the spring of 2019, becoming one of several disillusioned MPs fleeing mainstream parties to form The Independent Group.

She cited a “sea of cases” of antisemitism within Labour, accusing its top brass of choosing to “brush under the carpet” any complaints.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he is “delighted” that Ms Berger has accepted his invitation to rejoin the party.

He wrote on Twitter: “My test for change was whether those who were rightly appalled by how far we had fallen believe this is their party again.

“I know we’ve more to do but we’re unrecognisable from the party that forced her out.”

Ms Berger tweeted: “The Labour Party has turned a significant corner under Keir’s leadership. I’m pleased to be returning to my political home.”

Sir Keir posted images of letters exchanged with Ms Berger in which she writes: “I am looking forward to rejoining the party and working with you to continue what you have started.

“It is time to replace this reckless and divisive government and ultimately make the difference our country so desperately deserves.”

In her letter she said it was a “grim journey” from 2015 to 2019 “during which the party fell into the depths of the abyss under Jeremy Corbyn’s reign”.

She said it was “agonising” to be put in a position in which she had no other choice but to leave her “political home”.

She said: “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.

“But that is exactly what happened.”

Sir Keir said in his letter to Ms Berger that she left the party because she was “forced out by intimidation, thuggery and racism”, adding: “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.”

National Farmers’ Union Conference
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Ben Birchall/PA)

He wrote: “Before you were forced out of the party, you were an outstanding Member of Parliament.”

He said the party and British politics are “poorer places” without her, and apologised to her for the “intolerable and unacceptable” experience she had.

“The abuse you suffered was disgusting. You were left isolated and exposed. Shamefully, those who should have defended you stood by.

“The Labour Party – our party – has always prided itself on being a party of equality, collectivism, solidarity and anti-racism.

“But during those dark days we were none of those things,” Sir Keir wrote.

The human rights watchdog found the party broke equality law over its handling of antisemitism complaints.

Jeremy Corbyn
Ms Berger lambasted Jeremy Corbyn’s time as Labour leader (James Speakman/PA)

A damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2020 found the party was responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.

Mr Corbyn rejected some of the report’s findings and claimed the issue had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by his critics.

His comments led to Labour’s headquarters suspending him from the party.

Sir Keir said the findings of the EHRC investigation were “hard to read”, adding that it was “a day of shame for the Labour Party”.

Meanwhile, in another boost for Labour, Lord Sainsbury has confirmed his return and a donation, understood to be £2 million.

In a statement published by The Observer newspaper, he said: “I believe that Keir Starmer has the leadership skills and ability to deal with the economic difficulties we currently face.

“He also wants to reunite the country around an agenda of economic growth and social justice, which is one I strongly support.

“I am, therefore, helping the Labour party financially, as I don’t think democratic elections should be decided by which party is able to raise the most money, and because I want to see Keir Starmer become prime minister as soon as possible.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Donors are coming back to Labour because they can see we are a changed party that is serious about getting into government and building a fairer, greener, more dynamic Britain.

“We are very grateful for all support, large or small, as we gear up to fight the next general election.

“Thanks to Keir Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party is in a strong and positive financial position, having experienced significant growth in income throughout 2022, leaving us debt and deficit-free.”