On behalf of Liverpool Liberal Democrats, I have today welcomed the news that Luciana Berger has joined the Liberal Democrats. I do so not only as the Leader of the Lib Dems in Liverpool but also as the now ousted Lib Dem PPC for Liverpool Wavertree!
It’s been an exciting day which was started at 9.15 with a call from Jo Swinson giving me the news. I was able to tell her that I was certain that Liverpool Lib Dems would be supportive of this. We had already agreed as a Party to not fight against as a Change UK candidate. We were unsure what to do if she tried to stand as an Independent but I suspect that we would have come to the same decision.
Basically, we were able to move to this position with little debate because we have always respected her as an individual and have tried to work with her both locally and nationally. Tonight, we have called an emergency Executive Committee in accordance with the Party’s protocols and will, I am sure endorse her membership of the Party and then she will become not just a Lib Dem MP but officially the Lib Dem MP for Liverpool Wavertree!
Luciana arrived in Liverpool at the 2010 General Election where was a tense campaign in which we were quite aggressive (more than I would have liked) about the fact that she was arriving fresh from London and had no Liverpool roots at all. The local paper asked her questions about a range of local issues some of which caught her out. That, of course, is not our tradition. We are used to helping work up our local patch and riding a tide of support that we helped to create.
Since then she made her home in this City, got to know her patch well and has given birth to proud young Scousers who we hope will always maintain their Scouse Passports irrespective of what happens in Brexit!
We have always respected Luciana even when she was a Labour MP and have come to know her better in the last few months since she took her first step into a new world when she left Labour. Of course this happened just before she was to give birth to her second child so we had a quick meeting; decided to leave things for a few months but work together on important case work and local issues.
She has endured an appalling hate attack in the Labour Party since the rise to power within the Party of Corbyn and his cult. She was female, Jewish and bright. Unforgiveable sins in the eyes of many Labour members. She was subject to vicious abuse both inside her Party and externally. Even as a Labour MP we extended a hand of friendship to her to try and help her. The level of hate mail she received would certainly have overwhelmed me.
Liverpool Wavertree Constituency Labour Party is not a good organisation to be part of. Of the four Labour councillors elected this May one has resigned first as Lord Mayor and then as a Councillor for distributing a racist video. Another one has been suspended for sexism including calling a local Labour MEP a f*****g b***h on a video filmed in a pub!
Locally, she has worked hard and has not always been on the same side as the Lib Dem team on local issues. However, as many Lib Dems will tell you MPs and councillors in the same Party often have to disagree because they have different jobs and see things with a different perspective. This gets magnified when they are of opposing Parties.
Nationally, she has become renowned for her work on mental health where she has often teamed up with Norman Lamb on an issue dear to both their hearts. I have met her frequently at the Health Select Committee because of the work that I do nationally as health spokesperson at the LGA. Mental health and its links with physical health are of huge concern to the Lib Dems so working with someone as passionate about the issue as Lucian was not difficult.
Together the Lib Dems local and nationally will need to work with Luciana to decide what her next steps are. I hope that she feels as comfortable with her new political family as she felt uncomfortable with her last one. It’s great to have her on our team. Although Red is very popular for some reasons in Liverpool an increasing number of prefer an orange rosette!
What a great team of strong determined women MPs we now have in the Party. What a great team of 16 Lib Dem MPs we now have. I am sure that Luciana will not be the last MP to join us, in fact she’s the second this week. A clear reason for her arrival is the overriding issue of Brexit which she knows will be so damaging to her constituents and to our City. For too long Corbyn has been equivocal as to a way forward. Even today two Labour spokespersons have said two very different things about what will appear in a manifesto for a General Election. In the Lib Dems there is no such confusion.
“Bring it on”, is the Lib Dems view on an early General Election. Let’s get cracking with the General Election as soon as a no deal Brexit is safely in its box and get even more strong Remainers elected to Parliament.