Liberal Democrat London Mayor candidate Siobhan Benita has warmly welcomed Luciana Berger’s announcement that she will be standing for the Lib Dems in Finchley & Golders Green at the next general election.
Berger, who in February quit the Labour Party citing “institutional anti-semitism”, made known her decision by posting a letter to her current Liverpool Wavertree constituents on Twitter this morning.
Speculation has been building that she would contest the Barnet seat, where she has her London home, since she defected to the Lib Dems earlier this month.
“I’m absolutely delighted and look forward to helping Luciana become the next MP for Finchley and Golders Green” Benita said in a statement. “For the majority of Londoners, who want to remain in the EU, the Liberal Democrats are now the obvious choice.
“Luciana joins a rapidly growing list of people helping us paint the city yellow. They are attracted by our unequivocal “stop Brexit” message and our commitment to building an open, inclusive and sustainable future – in stark contrast to Boris Johnson’s Brexiteer Tory party with its poisonous populism, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit-complicit Labour party, that has failed to drive out antisemitism”.
Berger was previously a founding member of the Change UK party, and has spoken out about receiving death threats and a torrent of anti-semitic messages online. Four neo-Nazis have been prosecuted for hatred towards her.
Finchley & Golders Green, which has a more than 20 per cent Jewish electorate, has, like its two neighbouring constituencies in Barnet, been a Tory-Labour marginal since its creation in 1997. At the last general election in 2017, Conservative Mike Freer won with a majority of 1657 over Labour’s Jeremy Newmark, while Lib Dem candidate Jonathan Davies received just 3,463 votes.
However, in the European elections in May, the Lib Dems secured 28 per cent of the vote in Barnet – by far the largest share of any party, and above the London borough average of 27 per cent. The Jewish Chronicle has reported an extrapolation of a national YouGov poll conducted last Friday which shows the Lib Dems with 31 per cent, the Conservatives on 28 per cent and Labour on 23 per cent in Finchley & Golders Green. Earlier today, Ladbrokes had the Lib Dems as 4/6 favourites to win the seat.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, who contested Finchley & Golders Green’s predecessor constituency Hendon South three times for the Liberal Party and served as a Liberal and Lib Dem Barnet councillor for 24 years, told On London that Berger will bring “excitement and verve” and was optimistic about her success. “Recent polls, both national and local, show incredible support for the Lib Dems. And it’s a Remain constituency, represented by a supporter of Boris Johnson,” he said.
He added: “It is a useful to remind voters that Jo Swinson has specifically said that the Lib Dems will not support Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister. “Concerns in the Jewish community about Jeremy Corbyn have in my view greatly increased, even among those who have been Labour voters all their life. I believe the glitter has gone off Corbyn even among non-Jewish voters”.
Labour’s previous candidate for the constituency Sara Conway stepped down two weeks ago, after apologising for comments in an interview with Jewish News that anti-semitism had been “weaponised”. Jeremy Newmark and Liberal Judaism’s Senior Rabbi, Danny Rich, are reportedly both considering seeking the Labour nomination.
Berger’s declaration that she is standing follows Barnet councillor Gabriel Rozenberg’s defection to the Lib Dems from the Tories last Friday, and a series of prominent Conservative and Labour supporters across London moving to the Lib Dems. Barnet Lib Dems are to hold a campaign meeting with Berger this evening.
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