Labour snubs Berger over assault threat
● Party failed to contact MP despite launch of criminal probe into abuse by members
THE LABOUR leadership has failed to make any contact with Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger — despite the announcement last week of a criminal investigation into violent antisemitic threats made against her.
The JC understands that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor any member of his senior team has offered support of any kind to Ms Berger after Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, confirmed last Friday the start of a criminal probe into the threats that appeared in a dossier of abuse from Labour members.
In a series of potentially catastrophic events for Labour, it has emerged that party officials were fully aware of the threats made to Ms Berger — including the suggestion she was a “Zionist Extremist… about (to) get a good kicking” — for at least six months.
Despite the fact that Ms Berger has been a frequent target of extremists since she was elected Liverpool Wavertree MP in 2010, and that Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered by an extremist in 2016, Labour officials failed to alert Ms Berger or the police about the existence of threats now deemed serious enough for an investigation by Scotland Yard.
Sources close to Ms Berger say the conduct of the Labour leadership over this matter has left her dismayed, with a Labour spokesperson saying, “if someone feels they have been a victim of crime they should report it to the police in the usual way”.
But a Labour MP told the JC that this was impossible: Ms Berger could not have reported the threat to the police because the Labour Party had refused
to make her aware of it. One senior Labour figure told the JC it was “shameful the way Mr Corbyn and his supporters, including some very high profile women, were in effect now giving Luciana the cold shoulder.”
The existence of the dossier (compiled by concerned Labour activists) of 45 cases of antisemitism by Labour members was first reported in September after the contents were handed to radio station LBC by Labour members frustrated with the party’s disputes panel’s failure to act over blatant misconduct.
In one Facebook post contained in the dossier, a party member was shown to have written: “Zionist Extremist MP Luciana Berger, who hates civilised people, about (to) get a good kicking!”
The same individual was also revealed to have shared numerous other antisemitic posts with their 7,000 followers and friends online, including an image suggesting American taxpayers’ money is being channelled into the slaughter of Palestinians by Jewish controllers.
One member wrote: “We shall rid the Jews who are a cancer on us all.”
Another report in the dossier related to a party member accused of putting a child through “ten years of hell” and referring to him as “Jew boy”. A Labour member from Yorkshire suggested that Labour MP Yvette Cooper should be invited to a charity abseil, adding: “Then we can throw her off the top — no ropes.”
Leading barrister Simon Myerson QC told the JC that Labour’s tactics in dealing with the contents of the dossier were “beyond comprehension. The suggestion seems to be that Ms Berger could have reported the matter herself: that’s a neat bit of responsibility transferring. But it’s impossible.”
Criticising the party’s behaviour, he said: “If the bizarre decision is taken not to inform the person at risk, I would expect the police to be informed.
That is a free standing obligation based on straightforward common law principles about the duty of care: the death of Jo Cox adds weight to the need to do so, but doesn’t alter the legal obligation which already existed, in my view.” Mr Myerson said the decision not to alert Ms Berger “appears to have been carried out by someone who doesn’t have a clue what they were doing, took no legal advice, and has no apparent expertise in assessing threat levels”.
The JC understands that at the July meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee, the contents of the dossier, including the subject of “Physical Threats to an MP” were placed on the agenda for discussion, although it is not known if full details were raised in the time allotted for the monthly gathering. Only one month earlier, the party had appointed Gordon Nardell QC as in-house counsel on disciplinary matters — with general secretary Jennie Formby suggesting that the move signalled her intention to make dealing with antisemitism issues a “priority”.
When asked if Mr Nardell had attended the July NEC meeting and whether he was aware of the contents of the dossier, a Labour spokesman told the JC: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”
After the announcement of a criminal investigation, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson broke rank to demand that party members who have “committed hate crimes” face “the full force of law”.
Moderate Labour MPs, including Liz Kendall and Jess Phillips, were amongst those to quickly condemn the “completely unacceptable” attacks on Ms Berger. Ms Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said Labour’s leadership had a “duty of care” to “end the antisemitism” Ms Berger faced.
A spokesperson for the Labour Party told the JC: “It was only two years ago that Jo Cox was murdered in the street, so of course we take any threat against any of our MPs extremely seriously. We encourage people to report matters to the police if they suspect a crime has been committed and we expect anyone who has committed a crime to be dealt with.”
Litany of abuse: Luciana Berger