Luciana Berger (MSc Government, Politics and Policy, 2005) discusses her transition from politics to the private sector, the mental health challenges we face today and her experiences at Birkbeck.
Luciana Berger is no stranger to the public eye. Elected as the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree in 2010, she spent the best part of a decade forging a political career in Westminster. After leaving the Labour Party in 2019 and not standing again in Liverpool Wavertree, she wasn’t successful as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Finchley and Golders Green. Luciana made the transition into the private sector after the 2019 General Election and is currently the UK Managing Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at the global communications firm, Edelman.
Becoming an MP at 28 came somewhat unexpectedly to Luciana. “I didn’t expect to win the selection to be the candidate back in 2010. [Liverpool Wavertree] was one of the target seats for another party and I fought a very hard campaign and won, but it all happened pretty quickly.” She quickly rose through the ranks of the Shadow front bench, holding positions including Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Shadow Minister for Public Health and Shadow Cabinet Member for Mental Health between 2010 and 2016. Although she describes being elected as a privilege, “the very nature of politics means nothing is guaranteed.”
The pandemic has thrown up some interesting challenges for Luciana, as it has for many. She started her current position in ‘lockdown’ last May, along with having her two young children at home with her. Consequently, she has only recently met some of her colleagues in person, but she is very positive about her role at Edelman.
Luciana has always been a strong advocate for mental health and she recognises there are many challenges which have arisen from the pandemic. “Many people have found themselves in difficult circumstances, many have lost their jobs and are not able to put food on the table. But further to this, many have also suffered from isolation and lack of social interaction. Our considerations for the nation’s mental health have been relegated, while the long-term consequences of Covid are likely going to be mental health related. This presents a particular challenge for government, employers and places of education.”
Luciana is a former student of Birkbeck, graduating in 2005 with an MSc in Government, Politics and Policy. She looks back fondly at her time at the College, and feels she benefitted greatly from her fellow students who adopted the Birkbeck motto of “at night we learn.” She met many people from all different walks of life who were working during the day and coming to Birkbeck to study in the evening, including Lisa Nandy, current Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who was taking the same MSc. She says: “I am a big advocate of Birkbeck, the opportunities it presents and the learning experience it provides. It’s unrivalled.”
Her advice for anyone looking to get into politics: “Just do it – it’s an incredible privilege. Everyone can make a contribution. It doesn’t have to be in the Houses of Parliament. You can put yourself forward at local level to become a councillor, in the local wards, as a school governor or for your tenants or residents’ association. It all makes a difference and it all counts.”