Newly re-elected MP Mike Freer has thanked Jewish supporters for “standing by me” as he paid tribute to defeated opponent Luciana Berger.
Freer extended his majority to more than 6,500 after a contest that split the local Jewish community. Berger, who left Labour earlier this year over antisemitism, came second after a campaign backed by a number of high-profile figures saw her increase the Lib Dem vote to a record 17,600 in the seat. Labour’s Ross Houston came third with 13347 votes.
Expressing “delight” at being re-elected for a fourth term, he said it had been an “emotionally draining” campaign but a “good humoured and decent“ contest. “Luciana and Ross are decent people. Luciana Clearly has talent and I’m sure won’t give up on public life”.
Polls during the campaign had given a mixed picture of the likely outcome but the exit poll predicted a victory for the former MP for Liverpool Wavertree – who emphasised her party’s remain credentials in an area that voted to stay in the EU by nearly 70 percent. She had won hearts around the community and beyond for speaking out over antisemitism while in Labour and often faced abuse for doing so.
News of the result didn’t stop the country’s most high-profile Jewish politician receiving huge applause from supporters who later surrounded her to offer sympathy and hugs.
Freer said her decision to fight the seat had been a “complication”, turning what is normally a two-horse race into a three-way contest. But, he insisted, it had been “heartwarming” that Jewish voters stuck with him. “They recognised my support not just for one community but for all”.
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Freer – who thanked his campaign team and his husband – suggested the government’s clear majority would enable the Commons to “get back to work”. In relation to the Jewish community, he pledged to continue to work to ensure adequate funding for communal security.
Houston, who came third, said the Corbyn factor was a repeated issue on the doorstep.
He said: “The party has to listen to the Jewish Labour Movement and mend its relationship with the Jewish community.”
It was not a local problem, he said, but a national one “and we have to deal with it”.