Luciana Berger cut-out

Luciana Berger

By Justin Cohen, News editor, Jewish News 

Luciana Berger has spoken passionately about her new shadow cabinet role promoting awareness of mental health issues but admitted accepting the post under Jeremy Corbyn had not been an easy decision. 

The MP for Liverpool Wavertree decided to take a newly-created role of shadow minister for mental health only after “a full and frank discussion about a number of topics” with the new party leader.

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She said: “Reaching this decision was not easy. I cannot honestly say I agree with everything the new Leader of the Labour Party has said over the years. I felt he was willing to listen and engage. I respect those colleagues who have decided to work from the backbenches for a Labour victory in 2020.”

The significant policy differences that led several former shadow ministerial figures decide to return to the backbenches, combined with ongoing communal concerns, led left many wondering what role if any the former labour friends of Israel director might play under Corbyn.

Former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell was among the high-profile figures welcoming the new cabinet-level post and the promotion of Berger, who will now be able to continue her efforts began as shadow public health minister under Ed Miliband.

She said in a statement: “The overwhelmingly positive response to the creation of the position highlights the strength of feeling across the country on this issue. This role plays to my own passionately-held beliefs that mental health must be given top priority, and that cuts to services harm vulnerable people. Over the past two years I have been campaigning for improved services and have worked hard to hold the Government to account over their broken promises.”  

Berger added: “I want the Prime Minister to understand the scale of the crisis and the need for action.

We need fresh thinking on how to tackle the challenge of mental health in our society. We must achieve a cultural shift so that we end stigma and prejudice.”

Fellow Liverpool MP Louise Ellman, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, stressed the decisive nature of the leadership result “which must be respected”.

But she told the Jewish News: “I will continue to speak up for Israel and seek a just solution on the basis of two states.

“Jeremy must reach out to the Jewish community, be even-handed towards Israel and recognise the community’s concerns in the light of growing anti-Semitism. He must accept that current manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism must be confronted. These concerns are not confined to the Jewish community. They are reflected across mainstream society.”