Luciana Berger: 'Why I joined Jeremy Corbyn's cabinet'


Britain’s youngest Jewish MP has explained her decision to take a role in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet despite his links to antisemites and Holocaust deniers.

Luciana Berger said she had a “full and frank discussion” with the new Labour leader before agreeing to become Shadow Mental Health Secretary.

She said the decision to work with Mr Corbyn was “not easy – I cannot honestly say I agree with everything the new leader has said over the years”.

In a statement Ms Berger said she believed Mr Corbyn was “willing to listen and engage”.

She said: “I am delighted that mental health has been given the recognition it has long needed and is now a Shadow Cabinet responsibility. This newly-created role is an opportunity to achieve the cross-departmental working on mental health that is vitally needed. The overwhelmingly positive response to the creation of the position highlights the strength of feeling across the country on this issue.

“This role plays to my own passionately-held beliefs that mental health must be given top priority, and that cuts to services harm vulnerable people. Over the past two years I have been campaigning for improved services and have worked hard to hold the government to account over their broken promises."

Ms Berger served as shadow public health minister under Ed Miliband's leadership in the past five years.

She had not been expected to take up a role in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet after the controversy in the past month about his links to extremists, Shoah deniers and others who have in the past expressed antisemitic rhetoric.

Ms Berger said: "I had a full and frank discussion with Jeremy Corbyn about a number of topics before I accepted the position. I felt he was willing to listen and engage. I respect those colleagues who have decided to work from the backbenches for a Labour victory in 2020."

She said she would campaign in parliament and around the country to raise mental health issues.

"I want to hold ministers to account, not only in the Department of Health, but also in work and pensions, education, defence and other relevant departments. I want the Prime Minister to understand the scale of the crisis and the need for action.

“We need fresh thinking on how to tackle the challenge of mental health in our society. We must achieve a cultural shift so that we end stigma and prejudice.”

Last year Ms Berger was targeted by a neo-Nazi group which bombarded her with antisemitic abuse on social media sites.

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