Luciana Berger grins in the autumn sun. The former Labor MP can not seem to stop smiling.

After several years of relentless abuse, in which six people were convicted of crimes against them, she joined the Liberal Democrats and seems to have found a new life.

Now she's a deputy to Finchley and Golders Green – the constituency in North London where she lives is well known and apparently popular.

She speaks to the residents on the first full day of the election campaign and is equally welcomed by voters and their own party activists. It is a somewhat new experience for the honorable Member.

"I've left a very toxic party on every level," she says The Independent when knocking. "I attended my last Labor Party meeting in October last year and vowed never to return because it was so uncomfortable – it was so toxic that there was no humanity in the room.

"Being in the Liberal Democrats is so refreshing and so positive. I can have disagreements with people, and we do so in an adult manner, with people not screaming and shouting at you and hurling abuse in your direction. "

The abuse directed against Berger far exceeded the usual standards for many MPs. The threats to her safety were considered so severe that last year she was forced to accompany a professional security team to Labor's annual conference and, under police advice, had to take a series of measures to protect her and her family.

It is attacked by both the hard left and the extreme right. "I'm in the middle of different concentric circles," she says. "I quit the Labor Party, I was in the Labor Party, I'm Jewish, I'm a right-wing extremist, I'm against Brexit – the combination means I get more than my fair share."

"I fully understand why there are MEPs on all sides of the House, especially a larger proportion of women who chose not to run for election because it has become progressively uglier."

"If Boris Johnson, in response to a very serious intervention, says the circumstances we are in," Humbug says, "it's just horrible, horrible behavior."

When asked how bad things have become, she endeavors to put them into words and admits that she had to separate emotions from the reality of what she experienced. The events of recent years have had an effect on both mental and physical health.

She said that her lowest point had been reached last summer when she tried to persuade her colleagues from the Labor Party to pressure the party leadership to do more about anti-Semitism.

"Last July was the worst [when I was] in the depths of the experiment, with anti-Semitism and the abuse I got because I got up and talked about coping, "she says. "The amount of energy I needed to coordinate made me physically ill. I had chest pain, I carried away the physical burden. "

Of the six people convicted of crimes against them, four were from the right and two from the left. Four of them have been sentenced to prison terms, others may follow.

She tells the various events with a serenity that is almost disturbing, considering what she describes: images of her head hopped on rats, pornographic photos, letters signed by hand-written supporters of her former party leader, and hand-in-hand Office were warned that she would be raped, stabbed and covered with acid.

One man who threatened to "throw two bullets in the back of their ears" was a neo-Nazi who had previously been imprisoned for making a pipe bomb. Later, he was imprisoned again for almost five years for possessing terrorist material related to firearms and expenses.

On a previous occasion, she was abused in the street by a man who told her, "I hate Jewish people."

She says the abuse was routinely rejected by Labor members in her constituency, Liverpool Wavertree, who responded to her memories by sitting stony-faced and suggesting she better support Jeremy Corbyn.

With all the serenity she feels in her experiences, the anger beneath the surface is palpable. Much of it is aimed at people in Labor whom they believed were their friends, but who did little to support them. And despite years of friendship and cooperation, party ties were confirmed as she left; Some of those closest to her are now openly supporting her Labor opponent.

She admits that towards the end of her time in Labor she feels very, very lonely. "It's not just the people who sustained the event, but also the colleagues who were willing to speak out," she says. "I think it is up to all of us in public life to shoulder this responsibility."

Now it is better – mostly. Every day she gets insulted in social media, but the difference is that she no longer comes from her own side.

And here it is, in a new party and in the campaign for a new seat.


Tom Watson: Luciana Berger, who left Labor, was "the worst day of shame in Labor's 120-year history"

A cursory glance at recent results suggests that there is no reason for optimism. The headquarters of Finchley and Golders Green has been commuting between Labor and the Conservatives for years. The Liberal Democrats have never won more than 17 percent of the vote in the region. In 2017, the party received only 6.6 percent.

But there is a touch of change in the fresh autumn air. Dozens of activists gathered to greet party leader Jo Swinson to a local charity on this weekday morning. Almost 20 stay for a knocking session with Berger. This is not normal in an area where the Lib Dems traditionally had virtually no presence. The mood is positive, the reception on the doorstep positive.

And while reigning Tory MP Mike Freer is popular on the ground, there's reason to believe that a surprise is imminent. Last month, a poll showed that Liberal Democrats in the constituency exceeded all expectations. It dropped it to 41 percent, with the Tories and Labor falling to 29 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

There are two reasons for a seemingly huge shift in voters since 2017.

The first is the Brexit. Freer is a Tory whip and has consistently voted for both Brexit deals submitted to Parliament. In a seat that voted for Remain with 69 percent, the Liberal Democrats target heavily on pro-EU conservatives.

"It was his decision to take a ministerial post and do so in an area that remains so strong that it will respond," Berger says of her opponent.

She says many of the moderate Tories she encounters are dismayed by the leadership of the Conservatives under Boris Johnson. One of those who promote them today says he has supported the Tories for 35 years. He will not do it now, he says, because of the prime minister's Brexit and "fraud."

Berger says, "People are just horrified and scared, really very, very worried about what the future will be with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister or, after they have a hint and an idea of ​​what Boris Johnson's government would look like, they know That this is the case is not something they are willing to support. "

The other key issue in this leafy north London suburb is antisemitism. Twenty-three per cent of voters in the constituency are Jewish – the biggest Jewish community of any constituency in the country.

While Labour’s vote share rose slightly in the area in 2017, polls suggest it will plummet this time around, after two more years of controversy over anti-Jewish abuse in the party.

Anger at Corbyn’s response to antisemitism comes up time and time again on the doorstep, and Berger says it is not just Jewish voters who are concerned.

Recalling a taxi ride she had taken that morning, she says: “The cab driver was from Nigeria and lived in Finchley. The first thing he talked about was antisemitism. He said he could never vote for the Labour Party because of that.

“People think, what signal does that send? You’re a party that purports to stand up for equality and anti-racism and yet you treat one group in a different way. People are concerned both on behalf of the Jewish community and because they think, where does this lead?

“If you don’t apply your values of equality equally across the board, people are rightly concerned that one day it could be them.”

One voter who greets Berger enthusiastically on the doorstep says that she has Jewish friends who have talked to her about their fear of a Corbyn-led government. It is one of the main reasons, along with Brexit, why she says she will be switching to the Liberal Democrats.


Boris Johnson arrives at Buckingham Palace to inform Queen of General Election

If Berger wins Finchley and Golders Green for the Lib Dems, it would be a seismic moment both politically and for her personally.

She admits that she thought about not bothering at all. The abuse was so bad that, like a number of female MPs at this election, she considered stepping down.

“It certainly crossed my mind,” she says. “One in four of us will, at any given time, suffer with our mental health and while it’s not me today, it could be me tomorrow.

“I happen to be pretty resilient but maybe I won’t always be and sometimes it’s that last straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’ve certainly had low moments.”

And while things have improved, Berger is wary of celebrating what she thinks should merely be the basic level of decency in politics.

“It’s refreshing but it shouldn’t be refreshing,” she says of her recent experience. “This is how it should be done. This is how politics should be. The fact that it’s not should be concerning to us all.”

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