A senior Jewish Labour MP in Liverpool has called on activists in the party to end an anti-Zionist campaign of vilification against Luciana Berger, who was selected as the party’s candidate in the Wavertree constituency of the city last month.
Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, accused veteran MP Peter Kilfoyle of indulging in a “conspiracy theory” by making an issue of Ms Berger’s job as director of Labour Friends of Israel.
Mr Kilfoyle last month attacked the 28-year-old north Londoner as a “student politician”, saying he would have preferred a local candidate.
He also raised the issue of the LFI connection in Liverpool. Ms Ellman is a vice chair of LFI and the outgoing Wavertree MP Jane Kennedy is a former chair, as is Stephen Twigg, recently selected to stand in Liverpool, West Derby. “I am concerned about its growing influence,” Mr Kilfoyle said of the pressure group.
Ms Ellman said: “It is deeply disturbing that Ms Berger’s role in LFI is being used as a stick to beat her with. To link that with other MPs in Liverpool is conspiracy theory. Luciana is an excellent candidate, chosen by individual members of the constituency party.”
Mr Kilfoyle told the JC that he stood by his comments, but now wanted to draw a line under the matter.
“She is the candidate and I accept that. I will not undermine our chances of winning the seat. This is nothing personal, I have not met the woman,” he said
Ms Berger has ruffled feathers in the city since her selection last month, when she comfortably beat her nearest rival from the local council on the all-woman shortlist by two votes to one. However, the national Labour Party has been accused of parachuting her into the seat.
Ms Berger said: "This has been a tough couple of weeks but I have had amazing support from the people of Liverpool. I am delighted that Peter Kilfoyle will be supporting my campaign."
Eyebrows were raised after local paper, the Liverpool Echo, set her a “Liverpool quiz” in which she appeared to know nothing about Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool football manager, and was unable to identify the band which recorded the Liverpool anthem Ferry Cross the Mersey.
Her candidacy has also sparked speculation that Royle Family and Brookside star Ricky Tomlinson will stand against her for Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party. He has said he would be delighted to stand, but has yet to be selected as the party’s official candidate.