Joan Ryan: Labour MP quits party to join Independent Group in protest at Corbyn’s Brexit stance

Joan Ryan, who chaired Labour Friends of Israel, says Corbyn is not fit to be prime minister as she becomes latest MP to quit party

Will Kirby
Wednesday 20 February 2019 08:30
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Joan Ryan: "I don't believe Jeremy Corbyn is fit to be prime minister"

An eighth Labour MP has quit the party to join the Independent Group in the House of Commons, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of “presiding over a culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred of Israel”.

Joan Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, described the decision to quit Labour after four decades as “terribly difficult” – but promised to continue to represent and “speak up” for her constituents as a member of the new independent grouping in parliament.

In a statement outlining the reasons behind her resignation, Ms Ryan said she had become ”horrified, appalled and angered” by the party’s failure to tackle antisemitism, adding that ”no previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party”.

She said Mr Corbyn and the “Stalinist clique that surrounds him” have also failed to offer adequate opposition to the government’s Brexit plan, and have instead been “purging their perceived ideological enemies within and obsessing over issues that are of little interest to the British people”.

Her announcement came as Labour launched a consultation on changes to allow voters to force MPs to seek re-election if they swap parties.

The proposed new right to recall comes after the launch on Monday of the Independent Group by seven ex-Labour MPs including former shadow ministers Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie.

Members of the new group have indicated they will resist demands from Labour bigwigs, including John McDonnell, to step down and seek a fresh mandate from voters in a by-election.

Ms Ryan, who has represented Enfield North since 1997 with a break from 2010-15 and served as a minister in Tony Blair’s government, made clear she is hoping for further defections.

In a letter to constituents, she said she hoped her actions would act as a “wake-up call” and “others will join us”.

Ms Ryan said that under Mr Corbyn, Labour had developed a “cult around the leader”, driven by an “all-consuming narrative founded on rage, betrayal and the hunt for heretics”.

She added: “Jeremy Corbyn has enabled and allowed a toxic culture to develop in too many parts of the Labour Party.

“And I can’t be a part of it any longer. Which is why, with a heavy heart, I have left it.”

Ms Ryan, who served as a government whip under Tony Blair, follows Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie in quitting the party.

Reacting to Ms Ryan's resignation, Mr Leslie said he was "proud to stand with her" while Mr Shuker added: "Such respect for Joan. I know how hard this is. But we’re building something powerful together."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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