Why Luciana Berger joining the Liberal Democrats is important

As someone who has been both involved in campaigns against the growing, vile, antisemitism, and for the engaging with the Independent Group members of parliament, the decision of Luciana Berger, to become a Liberal Democrat gives real delight and is a pivotal defection, and, indeed,  a poignant one. This warm, eloquent, dynamic woman, is a courageous and feisty opponent of the prejudice and abuse she and others experience, and in support of a better more caring society and politics. She is a voice for mental health and a dedicated mp. She has been the target of far left Labour baiting.

For researching articles I have written for the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum,  at which I am a member and writer, I have been made aware of the extent of frequent taunting, inappropriate insinuation, direct insults, ongoing trolling, many who are Jewish, experience. This particularly complex and insidious prejudiced attitude, is a racism that has developed more, not less, in our country, in Europe, and even in the US. In the UK, it is statistically, thankfully, less. We are a more liberal and tolerant country, but victims of racism do not want to be tolerated.

The extent of her opposition to Brexit, as with Liberal Democrats , is obviously based in part, on her, and our belief, that only by greater unity, more harmony, real involvement, in each other’s societies, do we, as Europeans, counter the emerging narratives of populism and nationalism, that we witness, but must not  and, as Liberals, do not ignore. Racism is a consequence of extremism, ever since modern societies emerged, and at periods in history before such things were fully realised, these two have been bed fellows.

The resilience, determination, creativity, humour, of Jewish communities, and individuals from within them, over hundreds of years, has been and is, inspiring and inspired. These fellow citizens of this and any country, are amongst the most longstanding, to have emerged from immigration. It is no coincidence that Emma Lazarus, the remarkable young woman, lost to this world so young, was Jewish. She  was the writer of the great poem, that is on the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. ” Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is a rallying cry for liberals, progressives, humanitarians worldwide. It is now denigrated from the right. Even in the US.

The brave new recruit to our cause, Luciana, has, a great ancestor, like the other new Liberal Democrat, Chuka, who I wrote about on this site, to his apparent delight, worth mentioning. Luciana Berger is the great niece of  Emmanuel, or, Manny, Shinwell. Here was a man who started life, born in the East End, who moved to Glasgow. He became a trade unionist and member of the Labour movement, rising to become candidate for parliament. He defeated Ramsey McDonald himself! Seen as on the political left, he went on to emerge a Labour moderate, but a maverick. He was the Defence minister who believed rearmament vital in the post war, cold war years, his call for greater expenditure, led to the resignation of Bevan, Wilson, because of Chancellor Gaitskell supporting it. Shinwell , a Chairman of the Labour party, years later, though staunch in his membership, was considered a patriot who put party, second to country. He in his nineties,having been a Labour peer, many years,  resigned his membership, in protest against Militant, but lived to 101 years old!

There is much to learn from in the life of Luciana and in her lineage!

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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