Posts Tagged ‘Sion Simon’

Private Eye on Luciana Berger

April 12, 2018

It was Luciana Berger, who found that comment by Jeremy Corbyn from 2012, commiserating with the graffiti artist, whose picture had been censored because of anti-Semitism. This was the picture, you remember, that showed six white bankers dealing over a table resting on the bodies of Blacks. The comment formed the basis of the renewed attacks on Jeremy Corbyn for anti-Semitism two weeks ago, despite the fact that Corbyn has said he hadn’t properly looked at the painting and didn’t really know what was going on. But it’s also moot how anti-Semitic the painting actually was. Only two of the bankers portrayed were Jewish. These included Rothschild, obviously, but the other four were gentiles, and included Rockefeller. At the time, the Jewish Chronicle only said that the painting had an ‘anti-Semitic undertone’. Now, six years later, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council worked themselves up into a bug-eyed frenzy to denounce the mural and Corbyn as anti-Semitic. It’s entirely faux outrage. The BDJ and Jewish Leadership Council hate Corbyn, not because he is anti-Semitic – he isn’t, and they probably know it – but because he is genuinely anti-racist and supports the Palestinians from his commitment to fighting racial injustice. Israel was founded on massacre, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, and its policies towards the Palestinians are indefensible, except by attacking the country’s critics as anti-Semites. And so that’s what the Israel lobby – the Board, Jewish Leadership Council, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Labour Friends of Israel, Jewish Labour Movement – has done.

I found this brief description of Berger and her political career in Private Eye for 18th – 31st March 2011, in the ‘New Boys and Girls’ column. This is the column that gives brief descriptions of the careers and activities of new members of parliament, who have recently been elected. Here’s what the Eye had to say about Berger.

She may recently have been voted the most fanciable member of parliament, and since being elected as Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree last year she has developed a drooling fan club of sad, middle-aged men in the Commons – but looks deceive.

Twenty-eight year old Lucian Berger is what the comrades used to describe as “right operator” . Within a few months of her arrival, Ed Miliband had already promoted her to the frontbench as a shadow minister for energy and climate change.

Her swift climb up the greasy pole began soon after she left the Haberdasher Aske’s School for Girls and went to Birmingham University, where she became an executive member of the National Union of Students, convening national anti-racism campaigns. She resigned in 2005, accusing the NUS of taking a lax attitude to anti-Semitism on university campuses.

She later took up a “public affairs” post at Accenture and went on to advise the NHS Confederation, but not before the rumour mill had come alive with talk of a relationship with Euan Blair after the pair were pictured at a party. Denials came thick and fast, not only from Blair but also from the Labour party, which took it upon itself to issue an official statement saying that young Luciana “was not, and had never been” romantically linked with Euan Blair.

One of her predecessors in the Liverpool Wavertree seat, the late Terry Fields, might have doffed his fireman’s helmet to her for the at she managed to get selected in the first place, for it came straight out of the old Militant Tendency’s instruction manual. While Labour was choosing its candidate, Berger lived for about a month at the home of Jane Kennedy, then the sitting MP, whose partner was the Labour official who ran the selection process, Peter Dowling. The completed ballot papers were then returned to Kennedy’s home address for counting.

A furious Frank Hont, secretary of the regional branch of the Unison trade union, lodged protests with party bosses, to no avail. Although veteran Liverpool Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle branded her a “student politician” who lacked the experience to do the job, Berger went on to beat Liverpool councillors Wendy Simon and Joyce Still by a margin of around 2-1 to win the candidacy on an “all-wimmin” shortlist. By this time, Berger was in a relationship with the MP and journalist Sion Simon, who was shortly to stand down from parliament to devote his energies to becoming mayor of Birmingham. The pair were talked of as a new “power couple”.

Berger didn’t improve her stock with incandescent Scousers by committing a series of gaffes that would have sunk a less shameless candidate. In January 2010, the Liverpool Echo tested Berger with a four minute quiz on Liverpool live and history. She scored two out of four, not knowing who performed “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and not recognising the name of former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly.

In her defence, Berger said that “you can’t ask a girl a football question” and added: “I’m not new to the city. I’ve been coming here for the past decade through all different jobs.” It is difficult to know what caused more offence, Berger’s failure to have heard of Shankly or her reference to coming to the city “through all different jobs” – jobs, after all, being a commodity in short supply in Merseyside.

For a while it looked as though she would be given a run for her money at the election by Scouse actor and former union activist Ricky Tomlinson, who announced that he would stand for the Socialist Labour Party under the election slogan “Berger-my arse!” – but then wimped out because of “personal and contractual obligations”.

Once in parliament, Berger’s ability to upset local sensitivities continued. Last October she infuriated Liverpudlians by appearing on a Radio Five Live show with Kelvin MacKenzie, who was editor of the Sun at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and whose coverage of the story led to a boycott of the paper on Merseyside that lasts to this day. Berger’s lame defence was that she “didn’t know who the other guests were”.

With yet another little local difficulty somehow shrugged off, Luciana has also shrugged off Sion Simon and is now romantically involved with an equally ambitious Chuka Umunna, who has been dubbed “the British Obama”. With the pair already being talked of as a new “power couple”, let’s hope the Labour party doesn’t go and spoil things again by issuing a denial.
(p. 9).

She comes across very much as a typical New Labour politico – young, fiercely ambitious, very middle class and with a signal lack of interest in her constituency. Remember how Blair had various Tory defectors parachuted into safe Labour seats, ordering the sitting MPs to give way for them. The Tory defectors were immensely wealthy people, with very grand houses in London, and absolutely no connection to the constituencies they were given.

She sounds genuinely concerned about attacking anti-Semitism, but that doesn’t change the fact that the allegations against Corbyn and his supporters are grossly fraudulent and libellous. It just means she’s either very cynical as well, or that she really does believe that criticism of Israel equals Jew hatred.

And the circumstances of her selection as the official Labour candidate is so, er, irregular, that it could come from Stalin himself. ‘It’s not who votes that counts,’ said the old thug, ‘it’s who counts the votes.’ Quite.

It’s also highly ironic that she was propelled to the front bench by Ed Miliband. This is the Labour leader Maureen Lipman denounced as an anti-Semite, and claimed his election as leader forced her to leave the party. Miliband is of Jewish heritage, and in any case, anti-Semites don’t promote Jews to leading positions in politics. Lipman’s talking nonsense, but I’m sure you knew that already.

Her background with Accenture, formerly Anderson Consulting, shows that she is very definitely New Labour, with its orientation to the aspirational middle class and ideology focussed on privatisation and cutting welfare benefits. When Blair came to power, he did so with a plan prepared by Anderson Consulting, which the Tories had just thrown in the bin. She manifestly does not represent the working class, who New Labour ignored and took for granted. When Gordon Brown didn’t attack them as ‘feckless’ and responsible for their own problems, of course.

Her attack on Corbyn is all about undermining the Labour leader and preventing a return of real socialism, while advancing her own career as a leading Blairite in parliament.

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The Anti-Semitism Accusations, Blair and the Israel Lobby

May 7, 2016

I’ve blogged a number of articles last week pointing out that the accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour have precious little to do with any genuine anti-Semitism, but are simply part of a strategy by the Blairites to hang on to power within Labour, and the Israel lobby to deflect criticism of the state’s appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

I’ve posted up a number of pieces from the parapolitics magazine, Lobster, about the connections between the Zionist lobby and New Labour. And in the case of Blair his circle of MPs and activists, the connection was very close indeed. For example, in the article ‘Yo, Blair!’, in Lobster 52 for Winter 2006/7, editor Robin Ramsay noted that Lord Levy’s fundraising activities amongst the Jewish community was aided by a member of the Israeli embassy.

Even when the police investigation into Lord Levy’s fundraising activities for the Labour Party overlapped with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, to my knowledge none of the major British media, looking at Blair’s support for the Israelis, thought it relevant to mention that his successful capture of the Labour Party owed much to the money provided by Lord Levy, money which came, we are told, from British Jews, and that this arrangement, which enabled Blair to be financially independent of the Labour Party’s resources – and thus to all intents and purposes beyond their control – was facilitated by Gideon Meir, then with the Israeli embassy in London. (P. 16).

Ramsay also ran another piece on ‘New Labour and Israel’ in ‘New Labour Notes’ in Lobster 44, Winter 2002, 16-17. He wrote

In Lobster 43, p. 9, I referred to Tony Blair’s membership of the Labour Friends of Israel. That body was the subject of ‘Byers plots a comeback with pro-Israel pressure group’ by the Times’ political editor, David Cracknell, which included the following:

‘Stephen Byers is bidding to make an early political comeback just two months after quitting the government. The former transport secretary is the front runner to take over the chairmanship of the influential Labour Friends of Israel pressure group. the body is one of the most prestigious groupings in the party and is seen as a stepping stone to ministerial ranks for Labour MPs. Several recent incumbents have been backbenchers who have gone on to be appointed to government….Tony Blair consults members of the Friends of Israel over Middle East policy and Byers would have the opportunity to regain access to Downing Street on a vital area of policy without attracting unwelcome headlines.’

In ‘Tony Blair, New Labour Trumpet Boy!’, Diane Langford of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, added the following information on LFI.

* The Director of Labour Friends of Israel is David Mencer, former research assistant and electoral agent for Gwyneth Dunwoody, ‘life president’ of LFI.

*The parliamentary register of Members’ interests shows that recent visitors who have had flights and accommodation paid by Labour Friends of Israel include Ivor Caplin, Paul Clark, Oona King, Ashok Kumar, Ivan Lewis, Anne McGuir, Rosemary McKenna, Margaret Moran, former LFI Chair Jim Murphy, Sandra Osborne, Gareth Thomas, Frank Roy, Joan Ryan, Angela Smith, Graham Stringer, Rudi Vis, David Watts, Gillian Merron, Peter Pike, Lorna Fitzsimons, Louise Ellman, Caroline Flint, Linda Perham, Douglas Alexander, Fabian Hamilton, Anthony Colman, LFI former Chair Stephen Twigg, LFI Vice Chair Mike Gapes, and Dan Norris.

Ivan Lewis, in the list above, was PPS to secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers MP.

* Since 1997 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with the Labour Friends of Israel.

* The have been 14 official trade missions to Israel from the UK since 1997. The BRITECH agreement signed by Trade Secretary Stephen Byers means there is now a £15.5 million joint fund to encourage co-operation between British and Israeli hi-tech industries in research and development for their own benefit.

In the even the puff for Byers in the Times came to naught. the new chair of Labour Friends of Israel is the MP James Purple.

Further information on the Labour Friends of Israel appeared in the article ‘Terrorism, Anti-Semitism and Dissent’ by Tom Easton in Lobster 47 for Summer 2005, pp. 3-8.

Gwyneth Dunwoody’s researcher and election agent for some time was David Mencer, a former member of the Israel armed forces, and now secretary of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Stephen Byers, one of the few remaining defenders of the New labour Project, is a senior figure in LFI whose parliamentary chairman is now James Purnell. the latter was elected to Parliament in 2001 after working at No. 10.

Purnell, Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons, Jim Murphy and Sion Simon (a columnist for Conrad Black’s Daily Telegraph before becoming an MP in 2001) were all members of the New Labour ‘Praetorian guard’. Before becoming MPs they all cut their teeth in student politics with the help of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS). Numerically small – its website said it had 5,000 members in 2001 – it can afford 10 full-time workers. It played an important role in the 1990s in working with the National Association of Labour Students (later Labour Students) in keeping Israel off the campaigning agenda of the National Union of Students (NUS).

Of an older generation of student politicians is Mike Gapes, who came to work for the Labour Party after the NUS as a foreign policy researcher. He was part of the small team around Neil Kinnock who shifted the party away from its critical stance of the US and unilateralism. Elected to Parliament in 1992 he is now vice-chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. He wears another hat, that of chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a tax-funded operation similar to the NED in the States. Earlier this year Gapes chaired a WFD gathering at which Neocon NED chief Carl Gershman was a speaker.

This is just scratching the surface of the old Atlanticist networks with a newer Israel dimension, but it is sufficient to suggest that much of it in Britain centres around New Labour. And just as Avnery describes the pride the Israel lobby takes in its power over the US political process, so we have a parallel here around Tony Blair.

We not only can piece together the evidence; we can hear the words of one of Blair’s main links to the business community John Mendelsohn. this is what Mendelsohn told Jews Week (www.jewsweek.com) on September 8, 2002.

‘Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party. Old Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.

In a signed 2001 election advertisement in The Jewish Chronicle, Blair said:

‘Since 1997 a record 57 Labour MPs have visited Israel, mostly with Labour Friends of Israel, swelling the numbers of MPs willing to ensure balance on the Middle East in the House of Commons. More labour MPs have visited Israel than from any other party.’

How many of those Labour MPs voted against the invasion of Iraq? This is now important to the future of British politics. (p.8)

Elsewhere in the article Easton notes that the journos promoting the Iraq war worked for Murdoch, Black and Richard Desmond, who were all very strong supporters of Israel. (p. 6)