|Change UK Spokesperson for Home Affairs, Health, Digital and Culture|
1 March 2019 – 4 June 2019
|Leader||Heidi Allen (Acting)|
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Shadow Minister for Mental Health|
14 September 2015 – 27 June 2016
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Barbara Keeley|
|Shadow Minister for Public Health|
8 October 2013 – 14 September 2015
Harriet Harman (Acting)
|Preceded by||Diane Abbott|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Gwynne|
|Member of Parliament|
for Liverpool Wavertree
|Assumed office |
6 May 2010
|Preceded by||Jane Kennedy|
Luciana Clare Berger
13 May 1981
|Political party||Parliamentary affiliation:|
The Independents (2019–)
|Labour and Co-operative (until 2019)|
Change UK (2019)
Alistair Goldsmith (m. 2015)
|Alma mater||University of Birmingham|
Birkbeck, University of London
Berger was a member of the Labour Party until 2019, when she resigned to form The Independent Group with other MPs. As a former member of the Opposition Shadow Cabinet, she was Shadow Minister for Public Health from 2013 to 2015, and then Shadow Minister for Mental Health from 2015 to 2016.
Born in London to a Jewish family, Berger attained degrees at the University of Birmingham and Birkbeck, University of London. She served as a National Executive Committee member of the National Union of Students, but resigned to protest what she considered the committee's apathy towards antisemitism. Berger also joined Labour and served as Director of Labour Friends of Israel. Appointed Labour candidate for Liverpool Wavertree—her selection attracted criticism for resulting from a centrally-imposed all-women shortlist—she was then elected an MP in the 2010 general election.
As an MP, Berger joined the Shadow Cabinet under Ed Miliband's Labour leadership. She campaigned against dangerous dogs and their owners, as well as food poverty, and raised the issue of loopholes allowing companies to avoid their health and safety responsibilities. Some in Britain's Jewish community accused her of failing to speak out enough in favour of Israel; she also faced online antisemitic abuse and death threats. She was re-elected in the 2015 and 2017 general elections. Berger was critical of Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected Labour leader in 2015, and resigned from the Shadow Cabinet in 2016. She criticised what she considered to be increasing antisemitism in the Labour Party and said that, under Corbyn, Labour contained "institutional anti-Semitism". In 2019, members of her local party briefly proposed motions of no confidence in her for "continually" criticising Corbyn. She later joined other centrist Labour and Conservative MPs in forming Change UK, but left this group in June 2019 to sit as an Independent MP.
Berger was born in London, and is from Wembley in north-west London. She is the great-niece of trade union official and Labour MP Manny Shinwell, who rose to be a Minister in the Ramsay MacDonald government and in the Attlee government, as War Secretary in the latter. He was of Polish Jewish extraction, and was the last MP to throw a punch in Parliament, after taking exception to a Tory MP suggesting that he "get back to Poland".
Her father, Howard, initially studied law at university and practiced as a solicitor, and now runs a home furnishings shop. Her mother, Antonia, is an interior designer and children's book writer, wrote a musical hit that made the French charts in the 1960s, and was a counsellor in a palliative care unit. Her grandfather sold ladies’ fashions from a market stall, and her brother is a professional musician. According to Berger, the family was more culturally Jewish than religiously so. She said of her Jewish heritage: "I went to the synagogue a lot, and I was part of a strong community. One of its values, ‘Tikkun Olam’, literally means 'repairing the world', and it instilled strong values in me at quite young age." She still observes the main Jewish holidays.
Berger was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, a private school in Elstree, Hertfordshire. Berger subsequently gained a degree in Commerce with Spanish from the University of Birmingham in 2004. She was named the University of Birmingham 2012 Alumna of the Year. She spent a year studying in ICADE in Madrid, Spain. Berger then took on on a part-time basis and completed a master's degree (MSc) in Government, Politics and Policy at Birkbeck, University of London.
Berger was a National Executive Committee member of the National Union of Students, Britain's main student representative organization, serving as an elected member for two years. She co-convened the NUS Anti-Racism/Anti-Fascism Campaign.
In April 2005, Berger resigned from the Committee along with two other Committee members, saying "While I accuse no one of anti-semitism, this year NUS has been a bystander to Jew-hatred". A later independent inquiry later cleared the NUS of failing to tackle antisemitism, but on the other hand criticised the union for not having rigorous complaints procedures in place, and for "lack of proactive response to allegations of anti-semitism". The report recommended that the union apologise. The report was also critical of Berger, for—following complaints from Jewish students that the union was tolerating antisemitism—attending a meeting with the head of the School of Oriental and African Studies, inasmuch as the report suggested that given that she was a national executive member Berger should not have attended the meeting (which it said was implicitly critical of the union), and instead should have sought to support the union in addressing the problem first.
Berger began her career with the management consultant Accenture in its Government Strategy Unit from 2005 to 2006, advising the UK Treasury and other parts of the UK government as to how to be more effective and efficient. She then worked for the National Health Service (NHS) Confederation as Government and Parliamentary Manager, campaigning for the NHS within the government from 2006 to 2007. She also ran a non-profit campaigning and education organisation working with democratic socialists and trade unions for peace and security in the Middle East.
Berger was the Director of Labour Friends of Israel from 2007 to 2010, and stepped down before the 2010 general election to stand in Liverpool. She was a committee member of the London Jewish Forum, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of Jewish life in London, and stepped down when she was elected to Parliament in 2010.
Selection as parliamentary candidateEdit
Berger's selection as prospective parliamentary candidate in early 2010 was controversial within the Liverpool Wavertree party. There was criticism of the Labour National Executive Committee's imposition of an all-women shortlist (AWS) on the local party, and the Labour leadership was accused of "parachuting" Berger in as a candidate.
During the selection process, Berger lived for a month at the home of Jane Kennedy, then the sitting Labour MP, whose partner was Labour official Peter Dowling, who ran the selection process. The completed ballot papers were returned to Kennedy's home address. Kennedy said that she and Dowling had acted properly. Berger beat her nearest rival by a ratio of two votes to one.
Berger was elected to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and the Finance and Services Committee in 2010, but left the roles when she was appointed a junior shadow minister for Energy and Climate Change.
Beginning in 2010, she campaigned against dangerous dogs and their owners. Reacting to the killings of a number of children by dangerous dogs and the attacks leading to injuries of 5,000 postmen and women a year, she has proposed allowing police to take action on private property, produce dog control notices, and instigate compulsory micro-chipping, so that dogs and their owners can be traced more easily.
On 31 October 2010, Berger appeared in a Radio Five Live show which also featured among others Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun. MacKenzie was editor at the time the paper's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster which led to vilification of MacKenzie. Berger responded to criticism on her Twitter feed, writing: "Was there for the MP bit with Amber Rudd, wasn't told before who the other guests were".
The Jewish Chronicle reported in September 2011 that Berger had been criticised by the Jewish community in Liverpool and supporters of Israel for not using her position to defend Israel, and asserted that the reason was for the sake of career advancement. After 16 months in Parliament, she had not mentioned Israel in any of her parliamentary interventions.
Berger spoke in support of allowing MPs to tweet in the House of Commons, during a debate on 13 October 2011. She said moves to effectively ban the use of Twitter were "anti-democratic, regressive and bemusing to the public," and that "It's a very useful way to connect with communities we were elected to serve."
Berger campaigned against food poverty. In 2012, she produced and directed a film, Breadline Britain, dealing with food poverty. Almost one in ten people in the UK have skipped meals because of poverty. She was the first MP to secure a parliamentary debate on food banks, and has brought the issue back to Parliament more than 16 times.
Berger raised the issue in 2012 and thereafter of loopholes allowing companies to avoid their health and safety responsibilities. She argued that Parliament has a responsibility to close those loopholes.
Berger has served on the Health and Social Care Committee, which oversees the operations of the Department of Health and Social Care and its associated bodies, from October 2016 to May 2017, and from September 2017 to present.
Shadow Minister for Climate Change; Shadow Minister for Public HealthEdit
As Shadow Minister for Climate Change for three years, Berger was critical of the Conservative government's actions on the environmental agenda. She focused in particular on the Green Investment Bank and the Green Deal, writing in the environment section of The Guardian about the need for a pro-environmental-business agenda. In the run up to the 2011 budget, Berger also contributed an article to the Labour blog Left Foot Forward, challenging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet "three Climate Change tests" in order for the government to reach the Prime Minister's aim of being the "Greenest Government ever".
In June 2011, Berger secured an amendment to the Energy Bill, the Green Deal apprenticeship programme. The amendment states that the Secretary of State would report to parliament on proposals for an apprenticeships scheme within the Green Deal. She later criticised the Green Deal, saying in The Independent: "Because of sky-high interest rates, hidden charges and penalty payments, the reality for most people will be that the Green Deal ends up costing them more than they save".
On 8 October 2013, Berger was appointed Shadow Minister for Public Health following a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. She had previously signed parliamentary motions in support of NHS funding for homoeopathy. A Labour Party spokesman said: "Luciana fully supports the scientific evidence on the use of homeopathy. These old petitions will have no impact on her work as a shadow Health minister".
Save BBC Radio Merseyside campaignEdit
In response to proposals by the BBC to consider reducing locally produced content on their local radio network to cover only the breakfast and drivetime periods and syndicating Five Live during the daytime, Berger launched a campaign to Save BBC Radio Merseyside.
Shadow Minister for Mental HealthEdit
Following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party Leader in September 2015, Berger was appointed as the newly established Shadow Minister for Mental Health. The position did not have an identical counterpart in the then-current Conservative government. She resigned from the post on 27 June 2016 in the mass resignation of shadow ministers from the Labour frontbench over concerns about Corbyn's leadership.
Metro Mayor of Liverpool contestEdit
In 2015, Berger applied for selection as Labour Party candidate for the position of Metro Mayor of Liverpool, but on 10 August 2016 failed to be selected. She was the only woman campaigning to be a Labour candidate for the newly created metro mayor position.
She was appointed Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, a post she held until leaving the parliamentary party in February 2019. She was succeeded by Ruth Smeeth, who was appointed in April 2019.
In January 2013, a Merseyside music promoter, Philip Hayes was convicted of a racially aggravated public order offence and fined £120 after making a series of antisemitic remarks about Jews to Berger at the Liverpool Music Awards. He later apologised and said he had been drunk and was acting out of character.
In October 2014, Garron Helm, a member of the neo-Nazi National Action youth group, was imprisoned for four weeks after he sent an antisemitic tweet to Berger in August 2014. He served two weeks before being released.
Following the conviction, it was reported that similar messages to her were being posted on Twitter. According to Berger in December 2014, "[a]t the height of the abuse, the police said I was the subject of 2,500 hate messages in the space of three days" using the same hashtag. She has had to take security measures where she lives in Liverpool and London, and has accused Twitter of insufficient action to counter the problem. In her view, the site "could start by proactively banning racist words which aren't allowed to be printed in newspapers or broadcast on TV that could never be used in a positive way".
During the 2015 general election, right-wing UK Independence Party parliamentary candidate for West Lancashire Jack Sen was suspended from the party after sending an allegedly antisemitic tweet to Berger.
Joshua Bonehill-Paine, a supporter of Helm and a self-described far-right antisemite, was convicted of racially-aggravated harassment of Berger in December 2016. He was sentenced to two years.
In February 2017, John Nimmo was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to nine charges, including sending Berger death threats and antisemitic messages signed "your friend the Nazi".
After Berger asked Jeremy Corbyn's office in March 2018 why in 2012 he had queried the removal by a local council of an allegedly antisemitic mural by Mear One, she received further online abuse which she believes came from left-wing individuals. Her staff have given statements to police about their own victimisation. In the same month, Berger attended a demonstration in Parliament Square concerning ongoing cases of alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, and made a speech at the event at which she said: "Antisemitism is very real and alive in the Labour Party. It pains me to have to say that today".
In July 2018, Jack Coulson, a teenager obsessed with Neo-Nazism and who allegedly had told an acquaintance that he was going to kill Berger, was jailed for eight and a half months for possessing a document for terrorist purposes. He had a past conviction for making a pipe bomb.
No confidence motionsEdit
On 7 February 2019, Berger's Liverpool Wavertree constituency announced that two motions of no confidence in her had been submitted by local members, both condemning her for "continually" criticising the Labour Party leader. The second motion was proposed by a local member who had previously described her as "a disruptive Zionist" and had accused her of "spouting rubbish about antisemitism to take the heat [out] of her commitment to the murdering government of Israel". Both motions were withdrawn. While both motions referenced Berger's attacks on the party leadership, John McDonnell MP suggested that speculation that Berger was considering co-founding a breakaway party was a factor. Louise Ellman, another Liverpool Jewish Labour MP, claimed that the motive had been antisemitic. Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, defended Berger in the Commons, saying she had "our solidarity, our support, as she battles the bullying and hatred from members of her own local party. They bring disgrace to the party I love." Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair called Berger's treatment "shameful," and said: “The fact that someone like Luciana Berger – who is a smart, capable, active member of parliament doing her best for her constituents – the fact that she should even be subject to a no-confidence motion with this type of allegation swirling around is shameful for the Labour party.”
The Independent Group and The IndependentsEdit
On 18 February 2019, Berger and six other MPs – Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, and Ann Coffey – resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership to form The Independent Group of MPs. The Independent Group cited disagreements over the handling of Brexit and mishandling of antisemitism within the party as reasons for leaving. The Independent Group subsequently gained four additional members (bringing their ranks to eleven total): adding Joan Ryan (Labour) but also Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Sarah Wollaston (Conservative)
Personal life and awardsEdit
Berger married Liverpool music manager Alistair Goldsmith at the city's Princes Road Synagogue in June 2015. The couple's first child, a daughter, was born in March 2017 and their second child, a son, in March 2019.
Berger was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for her campaign against food poverty, in which she had produced a film to highlight the growing concerns of some of her constituents reliant on food banks. She remains in the directory of the Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who publication.
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|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for Liverpool Wavertree
| Shadow Minister for Public Health
|New office|| Shadow Minister for Mental Health