Luciana Berger has paid tribute to Sir Keir Starmer for turning the party around as she told a fringe event at Labour conference: “This is not the party that I left.”
The Jewish politician was one of six MPs who resigned from Labour in 2019 in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and after facing a torrent of antisemitic abuse.
She rejoined in February this year after what she described as an “incredibly heartfelt” invitation from the Labour Leader.
At a Labour First rally in Liverpool, she was moved to tears as she received a standing ovation and an audience member could be heard saying: “Welcome home.”
She later praised Sir Keir for doing “everything necessary to turn our party around”.
Ms Berger, who served as the MP for Liverpool Wavertree from 2010 to 2019, said: “It means so much to be here. This is the first rally that I’m speaking at Labour Party conference this year.
She thanked Labour First, the political organisation which aims to counter the left wing of the party, for being the “voice of moderation during what has been some extremely dark times”.
Ms Berger added: “If you’d have asked me a few years ago, if we’d be where we are today, I’d have said it was an incredible challenge, a mountain to climb and just to see the numbers of people in this room and where the party has got to … this is not the party that I left.
“This is not the conference that I was at for the last time five years ago. Also, sadly, with police support. It is a very different conference and, more importantly, it’s a very different party.
“It’s the party that I joined as a wide-eyed, ideological student that came to the Labour Party because of the values of the Labour Party and what are our values?
“Our values are about equality for all, our values are about anti-racism against all and fighting against all forms of those racism.
“It’s all credited I think, to Labour First but also to Keir Starmer, who’s shown the leadership has really done everything necessary to turn our party around.”
In 2019, Ms Berger became one of several disillusioned MPs fleeing mainstream parties to form The Independent Group.
She would later contest the Finchley and Golders Green constituency, an area with a prominent Jewish population, for the Liberal Democrats at that year’s snap winter election.
The former MP managed to dislodge Labour as the second party but lost to the Conservatives by 6,500 votes.