Enfield North MP Joan Ryan joined The Independent Group after quitting Labour Party, reports James Cracknell
Newly-independent MP Joan Ryan is refusing to call a by-election – even if most voters want one.
Speaking to the Dispatch following her decision to quit the Labour Party over its handling of anti-Semitism and the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the Enfield North MP said it was “not the right time” to stand for election. She has now joined The Independent Group of anti-Brexit MPs that includes defectors from both Labour and the Conservatives.
Joan has represented Enfield North since 2015, when she won back the seat she lost in 2010 following her involvement in the parliamentary expenses scandal. Her majority increased ten-fold at the last election, from 1,086 in 2015 when Ed Miliband led Labour to 10,247 in 2017, under Corbyn.
“I did not win my seat on his coattails, I won it despite him,” Joan told the Dispatch. “During the general election I spent a large amount of time on the doorstep and voters told me they were very worried about Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.
“I wrote to my constituents and I told them I didn’t think there would be a change of government and they could vote for me without worrying about that.”
Enfield North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) last year passed a motion of ‘no confidence’ in Joan. CLP secretary Maria McCaul said she was “relieved” she had resigned because of her opposition to Jeremy Corbyn and has now called on Joan to “step aside” and allow a by-election to take place.
Asked whether she would call a by-election, Joan said: “I don’t think people want a by-election. I wouldn’t do it even if there was pressure to do so, because it is not the right time.”
Joan, who chaired Labour Friends of Israel, wrote extensively in her resignation letter about her concerns over anti-Semitism, saying the party was “infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism”. She says she considered resigning for a long time – but seeing a Jewish MP quit over bullying from within the party finally made up her mind. Joan told the Dispatch: “I have tried for three years to fight this and to get Jeremy to recognise this problem.
“I was watching these seven [former Labour] MPs on TV. Listening to what Luciana Berger said, I couldn’t disagree. I would stand in solidarity with any minority being treated like this.
“I spent 24 hours reflecting on it. It has been agonising, it has been my life standing for values of social change and social justice. I’m well aware Labour members helped me get into this position – but I joined the party because of my principles.”
After quitting Joan was accused of accessing Labour Party data. She said: “I never and my office never accessed or used any Labour Party data since the resignation.”