Joan Ryan becomes eighth MP to quit Labour to join Independent Group

19 February 2019, 22:15 | Updated: 20 February 2019, 07:14

An eighth Labour MP has quit the party to join an independent grouping in parliament.

Enfield North MP Joan Ryan has resigned from Labour, claiming the party has "become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism" under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Ms Ryan said it was a "terribly difficult decision" to quit Labour after four decades, but vowed to continue to represent and "speak up" for her constituents as a member of the new "Independent Group" of MPs.

She will join Chuka Umunna, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger and Ann Coffey in the new grouping, after the seven resigned from Labour themselves on Monday.

In a statement explaining her reasons for leaving Labour, Ms Ryan, who is chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism.

"This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.

"No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party."

Accusing Labour's leadership of a "dereliction of duty in the face of this evil", she added: "I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while its leadership allows Jews to be abused with impunity and the victims of such abuse to be ridiculed, have their motives questioned and their integrity called into doubt.

"I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while its leadership singles out for demonisation and delegitimisation the world's only Jewish state.

"And I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while this requires me to suggest that I believe Jeremy Corbyn - a man who has presided over the culture of anti-Jewish racism and hatred for Israel which now afflicts my former party - is fit to be prime minister of this country.

"He is not."

Claiming her former party has "resisted, ignored and snubbed" demands from the Jewish community for greater action to tackle antisemitism, Ms Ryan suggested "anti-Jewish racism and the sensitivities of British Jews simply do not matter enough to the Labour leadership".

A former government whip, Ms Ryan was first elected to parliament in 1997 in New Labour's landslide election victory.

She lost her seat to the Conservatives in 2010 but regained the Enfield North constituency for Labour in 2015.

In September last year, Ms Ryan narrowly lost a vote of no confidence among her local party members.

She blamed the defeat on "Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard-left".

The vote was controversially filmed by Iranian state broadcaster Press TV, which is banned in the UK.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the incident made "a farce of the proceedings and is not how the modern Labour Party should conduct its affairs".

Labour Friends of Israel praised Ms Ryan as "brave and principled" and revealed she would remain as their parliamentary chair despite her resignation.

The group said in a statement: "Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, anti-Jewish hatred and demonisation of the world's only Jewish state has been allowed to flourish.

"The politics of the hard-left represent a threat to the security of the UK, to our traditional alliances and to the stability of the Middle East and its only democracy, the state of Israel.

"We will continue to work both within the Labour Party and with like-minded, independent MPs on the left and centre-left to promote a two-state solution, to combat anti-Zionist antisemitism and counter the delegitimisation of Israel."

Amid suggestions more MPs could soon quit Labour, Dudley North MP Ian Austin has revealed he is thinking "very carefully" about his position in the party.

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, a close ally of Ms Ryan, told Sky News she has "no plans as yet" to follow her friend and resign from Labour.