Labour snubs Berger over as­sault threat

● Party failed to con­tact MP de­spite launch of crim­i­nal probe into abuse by mem­bers

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN PO­LIT­I­CAL EDI­TOR

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.”

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Litany of abuse: Lu­ciana Berger

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