Corbyn tells Cambridge Union: Luciana Berger ‘was not hounded out’ of Labour
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Corbyn tells Cambridge Union: Luciana Berger ‘was not hounded out’ of Labour

Exclusive: Former Labour leader sparks fury after speaking at prestigious debating society, responding to the society's Jewish president Joel Rosen

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Jeremy Corbyn and Joel Rosen
Jeremy Corbyn and Joel Rosen

Jeremy Corbyn has sparked renewed fury after telling Cambridge University’s debating society that former Jewish MP Luciana Berger “was not hounded out of the Party.”

Appearing before the Cambridge Union the ex-Labour leader was responding to a comment by the society’s President Joel Rosen who had asked him what he had done to stop the Liverpool Wavertree MP from being “hounded out” of the party.

Corbyn’s responded by saying: “Luciana was not hounded out of the party.

“She unfortunately decided to resign from the party.”

The Islington MP then added he was not suggesting Berger was wrong to quit Labour.

He recalled how he had appointed her as his shadow minister for mental health and said they had worked well together.

Corbyn added:”We gave her all the support she needed and deserved.”

The ex-leader said people had been prosecuted as a result of the abuse Berger was forced to endure.

But he then added:”She received appalling abuse, Diane Abbott received appalling abuse – and so did Dawn Butler.”

At one stage Corbyn was given the opportunity to reflect on his meetings in the past with terrorist sympathisers and Holocaust deniers.

But sources at the debate said rather than offer genuine regret he merely repeated his regular claim to be a committed anti-racist.

Asked about his reluctance to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full, Corbyn denied he did not listen to the Jewish community while he was leader.

He repeated his concerns about examples in the definition that are alleged to stifle debate on Israel and the Palestinians.
Corbyn said the debate over Palestine “should and never would I hope descend into any antisemitism on those issues.”

Another Jewish Labour member Jack Lubner, was also applauded by many in the audience, as he outlined his frustrations at Corbyn’s past record.

Rosen told Jewish News after the debate: “After five years enduring an institutionally antisemitic party I was struck that Mr Corbyn didn’t take the opportunity to take even a modicum of responsibility for the unlawful discrimination and harassment perpetuated by the party he led.”

Another attendee said that despite being an overwhelming non-Jewish audience there was considerable anger amongst most in the room over Corbyn’s failure to comprehend any past failings.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the debate

Elsewhere in the debate Rosen recalled his own experiences of being a Labour Party member and allegations of antisemitic conduct from party members.

He said for wearing a kippah he feared he would be subjected to harassment and abuse when attending Labour members.

At one stage Rosen recalled the words of Andrew Murray, chief of staff at the Unite union, who said Corbyn did not understand antisemitism properly.

Corbyn said he represented many Jews in his Islington constituency and that they were among his supporters.

Asked how he reconciled the “lived experiences” of Jewish members in Labour, Corbyn said he had set up the party’s governance and legal unit to tray to deal with these issues.

Rosen then read out Andrew Murray’s assessment of the left-wing failure on antisemitism and the struggle of those such as Corbyn to view Jews in the same was as other minorities.

“I don’t agree with Andrew’s characterisation of what he perceives my views to be. He’s never had that discussion with me. He knows me quite well and I was surprised to read that in his book. ”

Corbyn said it was “unfair” to suggest he did not understand the Jewish community.

He said:”I represent a very mixed constituency – included within that many Jewish people.

“Within that would be many Jewish people – both those who would be followers roughly of the position of the Board of Deputies, and followers of Jewish Socialist Group, Jewish Voice For Labour – a very large number of people, more in Hackney than my area from the Charedi community, who actually do suffer serious poverty.”

Corbyn also claimed he had inherited a “dysfunctional party” that was poor at tackling antisemitism when he became leader.

He said this was why he appointed Baroness Chakrabarti to conduct her report.

Corbyn that said “it is hard to track down” some of those who hide behind false names on social media to abuse people. He added this made it hard to determine if they were Labour members.

Corbyn added: “No antisemitic or racist stuff is ever done in my name. I would not tolerate or never allow it.

“Let’s get that clear.

Jewish News has contacted Luciana Berger for comment.\

Watch he full video here:

 

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