Shadow minister Luciana Berger hits out at ‘absolute disgrace’ Ken Livingstone as she attacks Labour antisemitism


The most senior Jewish MP in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet has hit out at the rising tide of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said it was necessary for her party to have launched an internal inquiry into antisemitism after a series of high-profile suspensions.

She described former London Mayor Ken Livingstone - who was suspended after he claimed Hitler supported Zionism - as an "absolute disgrace".

Speaking at a charity lunch this afternoon, Ms Berger revealed she had met lawyer Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of human rights group Liberty who is chairing the inquiry.

Ms Berger told the audience: “I think it is worth repeating today that Ken Livingstone’s an absolute disgrace with his antisemitic comments.

“Ken Livingstone certainly does not speak for my party.”

Referring to her breakfast with Ms Chakrabarti, Ms Berger said: “I was talking to her about the process she is going through over the coming months. I wish such an inquiry was not needed; but it is necessary and it will do very important work.

“I welcome the fact that one of the outcomes will be for Labour’s National Executive Committee to accept a Code of Conduct on antisemitism and other forms of racism.”

Echoing comments made by Mr Corbyn, she added: “Labour does have a proud history standing against racism, including antisemitism.”

Mr Berger said she would not resign from her shadow ministerial role as a result of the Labour antisemitism crisis, explaining: “Some people have asked me if the Jewish community should abandon the Labour party.

“I think it would be absolutely perverse if people like me and my Jewish parliamentary colleagues – [MPs] Louise Ellman, Ivan Lewis, Ruth Smeeth – if we left the Labour party, and it was not the antisemites who left the Labour party.”

Since the election of Mr Corbyn, more than 20 Labour members have been suspended over allegations of antisemitism – including Bradford West MP Naz Shah, who called for Israelis to be transported to the United States.

At the event, Ms Berger spoke about her own experience of antisemitic abuse at the hands of far-right Twitter trolls “in this country and beyond”.

She said: “It’s important that we speak out against all forms of antisemitism, wherever it may rear its ugly head.”

Ms Berger was speaking at the annual fundraising lunch for Jewish Women's Aid, a charity that provides support for female victims of domestic abuse in the community and their children.

Ms Berger hailed the “fine Jewish tradition of tzedakah” – commending the work of voluntary organisations in the community.

Also this afternoon, Home Secretary Theresa May told the Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee that Mr Livingstone's comments were "unacceptable and wrong" and that it was right for him to have been suspended.

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