Labour Party members in Enfield North have called for the expulsion of their MP, due to what they see as behaviour that was disloyal to the party during the 2017 general election campaign.
But Joan Ryan is also the chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Will so-called campaigners against anti-Semitism seek to use this as a stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn?
As a candidate, Ms Ryan distanced herself from Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. She did not use the party logo on her leaflets and claimed in a letter to voters that “many” local people “tell me they have more confidence in Theresa May as prime minister than they would have in Jeremy Corbyn.”
Despite “your misgivings about the Labour leadership,” she wrote, “I hope that you will consider voting for me as your local MP [member of Parliament].”
She also declared she had an “independent-minded” record, saying she would “continue to work” for a changed Labour Party – implying that she would keep trying to remove Mr Corbyn.
In line with most opinion polls, Ms Ryan expected Theresa May’s Conservatives to return to office with a much larger majority – grossly underestimating the popularity of both Mr Corbyn and the campaign he ran.
This nationwide surge in support for Mr Corbyn, coupled with an influx of activists in her own constituency, meant Ms Ryan benefited from Labour’s new popularity. She was returned to Parliament with an increased majority.
According to the Electronic Intifada, “some of these grassroots activists were local, while others came from surrounding areas, having been advised by an online campaign tool that Ryan’s seat was in danger of being lost to the ruling Conservative Party, due to her small majority. The tool was provided by Momentum, a group set up after Corbyn became party leader in 2015, to capitalize on the popular movement supporting him.”
The formal complaint by 24 Enfield Labour members states that Ms Ryan breached Labour Party rules stating that to “remain eligible for membership, each individual member must … accept and conform to the constitution, program, principles and policy of the party.”
Ms Ryan’s election letter disavowed the party, “choosing to omit the Labour Party logo” and dissociated herself “from the party leadership,” the complaint says, criticising her for apparently placing her letter “into the public domain” from which it “rapidly migrated to the national media where it was widely exploited” in an attempt to damage Mr Corbyn.
The complaint does not mention Ms Ryan’s history of support for Israel.
But it is known that, as chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Ms Ryan has been a vocal opponent of Mr Corbyn, who supports the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The week after the general election, despite having Mr Corbyn’s supporters to thank for her own increased majority, Ms Ryan called on him to cut his ties with the PSC to prove Labour is a “credible party of government.”
She also threatened to revive the anti-Semitism witch-hunt within the Labour Party which, again according to the Electronic Intifada, “engulfed Labour last year, when dozens of members were suspended without due process, often based on grossly exaggerated or entirely fabricated charges.”
(This Writer can confirm that other activists, claiming to be fighting anti-Semitism, have not stopped trying to undermine genuine Labour members and supporters – I was suspended from the party in May, based on fabricated claims by an organisation called the Campaign Against Antisemitism.)
Ms Ryan herself is on record as having fabricated an accusation of anti-Semitism against a Palestine solidarity campaigner who had challenged her on Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank. She accused the campaigner of invoking “classic anti-Semitic tropes” about Jews in banking – but video evidence proved that the activist did not.
Soon after the incident at the Labour conference in September 2016, Ms Ryan alleged that her Labour Friends of Israel stall had been the victim of anti-Semitic attacks.
So there is a lot of evidence against her. But this case seems alarmingly similar to that of Luciana Berger, only a few days ago.
Ms Berger, who had resigned from the shadow cabnet in 2016 in a bid to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, had faced demands for an apology and display of loyalty for the Labour leader after his election campaign left the Conservatives without a Parliamentary majority – and she did, in fact, provide such assurances.
But commentators including the Jewish Chronicle accused Momentum of anti-Semitism, as Ms Berger is Jewish.
In my own article on this matter, I urged: “Read that paper’s article. It acknowledges that the comments were not made by a Momentum member – but still attacks the organisation for anti-Semitism.”
How long will it be before Enfield Labour faces the same accusations?
All of the above seems to corroborate Tony Greenstein’s allegation – made in his blog on June 20 – that the pro-Israeli lobby in the Labour Party was set to launch another spate of anti-Semitism allegations.
He wrote: “They are trying to relaunch the false ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign in the hope of dividing the Party, sowing dissent and providing succour to the Tories. False anti-Semitism and false victimhood are their chosen strategy.
“It is essential that if there is a further round of false ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations that Jeremy Corbyn stands firm and calls it out.”
Yes it is. Let us hope he does so – but in a way that defuses the allegations and leaves the false accusers with nowhere to go.
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