Of all the most profoundly depressing things I have heard in this deeply dispiriting election are the lies and disinformation being spread by some members of our community about Luciana Berger.
Let me declare some interests.
I have known and acted for Luciana, as her lawyer, against perpetrators of antisemitism for many years, since she was active in student politics.
My son is also part of Luciana’s team. And I very much hope she wins. I completely understand that some members of the community support Mike Freer; that they will back his party’s policies on a range of issues and may not support the pro-remain vision for the country being put forward by the Liberal Democrats.
What I cannot understand is why those views have led to the vitriol and untruths that have been directed towards Luciana in the last month.
Of one thing, there is no doubt: over the last three years, Luciana has represented the interests of the Jewish community in the fight against Labour antisemitism with a degree of bravery few others could show and at great political and personal cost that no one should have to bear.
She has been resilient, passionate and unwavering in calling out Labour’s hostility to our community, its hypocrisy and inaction. The majority in our community and beyond it, including in Finchley and Golders Green, recognise her courage and are grateful for it.
Some, though, it seems, are not and have resorted to untrue scandalising in an attempt to persuade others not to vote for Luciana.
This includes charges that she is “evil”, “a traitor”, “anti-religion,” “anti-Israel” and “a disgrace”. Difficult though it may be to believe, there are even those, in their efforts to defame her, who say that she’s done nothing for the Jewish community during her time in Parliament . She has been accused of refusing invitations to Jewish and Holocaust events as an MP, despite attending and participating in dozens of them.
A recent letter received by Luciana from a Jewish resident in Golders Green stated, “When you lose, you will be cast in the gutter where you belong.”
The language of the racists she has stared down in the Labour Party and beyond is now coming from the mouths and in the emails of some members of her own community.
One can only speculate as to why. Here is a woman who is more part of our community than any other MP sitting in the last Parliament.
Luciana grew up in one of our youth movements, was a leader in UJS, attends our communal events, supports Holocaust education and survivor charities, sits around our Friday night dinner tables, was Director of the Labour Friends of Israel and is deeply Jewishly literate.
All this as well as exposing the Labour Party for being institutionally antisemitic on behalf of British Jewry – some 284,000 Jews.
There may be other Jews in the next Parliament but there will not be another MP more aligned with, enmeshed in and supportive of our community.
The other arguments against her standing are equally specious. Jo Swinson has categorically ruled out facilitating Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister under any circumstances. Luciana standing in Finchley and Golders Green has ensured the Labour candidate will lose, rather than, as some have said, improving his chances.
An unknown, Liberal Democrat candidate would have made no impact and the very high Remain vote may have seen Corbyn’s representative elected. Luciana’s presence has ensured that cannot happen. The contest is between her and Mr Freer. And, in that context, it is not just her Jewish community credentials that make her deserving of support. She qualifies based on her record as an MP for the last 9 years, not just on Brexit issues, but on local ones too. She has changed laws, even from opposition, including in the vital area of mental health, and has been resolute in representing her constituents, driven by her deep commitment to public service.
There may be very good reasons to vote for Mike Freer. If you are a Brexiteer or committed Tory, he is your only choice. He has also been a good friend to and supporter of the Jewish community. Not, however, greater than Luciana.
Whichever way we vote, however, let’s do it on the candidate’s merits, the facts in front of us and not based on vicious and untrue rumours and allegations. There is enough lying in this election. There is no need for us to add to it.”