CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Lib Dem letter attacks Labour over anti-semitism, but chief rabbi told he had ‘gone too far’

Tulip Siddiq says Labour has been ‘too slow to act in recent years’

28 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Luciana Berger with Matt Sanders

TWO-time defector Luciana Berger is trying to help knock an old friend out of her parliamentary seat by writing to residents appealing for them not to vote for the Labour Party.

She has waded into the election contest in Hampstead and Kilburn with a personal letter to voters, insisting that her former party cannot be trusted due to its handling of anti-semitism complaints.

The letter hit doormats as the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis himself intervened in the general election contest this week by criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and claiming the party had been infected by a “new poison – sanctioned from the top”.

Both interventions left Mr Corbyn’s supporters dismayed that once again he is defending his record on racism.

Ms Berger’s appeal for voters to side with the Lib Dem candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn, Matt Sanders, is at the expense of Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, who she had been friendly with during their early days coming through the ranks of the Camden Labour Party.

Both went on to be MPs. In her mailout, she said Mr Sanders was a “passionate campaigner against Brexit and will always stand up for Hampstead and Kilburn’s diverse communities”.

The decision to play Ms Berger in has surprised several of Ms Berger’s former colleagues in Camden, particularly as she has her own election contest to focus on as a parliamentary candidate in Finchley and Golders Green.

Luciana Berger and Tulip Siddiq both became MPs after coming up through the Labour Party ranks in Camden

She is not re-standing in her previous constituency of Liverpool Wavertree after leaving Labour earlier this year to help form the The Independent Group in the House of Commons. This later became Change UK, which she then also left to join the Lib Dem’s.

Mr Sanders said: “The intervention from the Chief Rabbi echoes what many people are telling us on the doorstep. When a whole community is speaking out like this, it is our duty to listen and to take it seriously.”

He added: “Voters here face a simple choice between me or a Labour candidate who, like every Labour candidate in the country, is fighting to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister.”

Ms Siddiq said: “The Chief Rabbi’s intervention must be met with decisive action to rebuild trust. Labour has a proud history of fighting anti-semitism but has been too slow to act in recent years. I will continue to work with local Jewish leaders and organisations to make progress.”

Some of those campaigning for her to retain her seat, however, believe Ms Siddiq should be more defensive of Mr Corbyn, while at the same time sharing a commitment to tackling racism.

“Certainly the Chief Rabbi should be listened to respectfully – we in Camden Labour will always stand up for our Jewish sisters and brothers, and deeply value all our faith groups and leaders,” said a source in the Corbyn-supporting block in the Labour group.

“But we’d also ask that Lord Alf Dubs, the Labour Peer and refugee from the Nazis is listened to with equal respect in saying Rabbi Mirvis had ‘gone too far’.”

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