Joan Ryan: It’s not been a day of shame – but four years of shame

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Joan Ryan: It’s not been a day of shame – but four years of shame

Former Labour Friends of Israel chair joined by LORD Ian Austin in expressing sadness at the state of the party following the EHRC report publication

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Joan Ryan MP speaking at the LFI lunch
Joan Ryan MP speaking at the LFI lunch

Two former Labour MPs, who are not Jewish but cited antisemitism as their reason for leaving the party, reacted with sadness on Thursday as the full findings of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into Labour antisemitism were made public.

The former MP for Dudley North, Ian Austin, now a member of the House of Lords, and Joan Ryan, who stood down at the last election as MP for Enfield North, both expressed sadness at the report.

Lord Austin told JN: “It is a shameful day for the Labour Party. Who’d have thought that a party formed to fight racism could have ended up breaking equality laws in its treatment of Jewish people. I’m shocked — but I’m not really surprised at the results of the investigation. This issue should have been dealt with years ago, it should never have got to this stage. The Party’s got to act now, there were no excuses before, but they have really got to deal with this”. 

Lord Austin left Labour in February 2019 along with other MPs who broke away to form the short-lived Independent Party. He said: “I’m still profoundly shocked at the way the party was poisoned by racism, the way its processes were corrupted, the way people in senior positions failed to stand up for the Jewish community and their Jewish colleagues. I think it will take a lot of work and a very long time before I even start to think about going back”.

Ian Austin (Photo credit: Simon Cooper/PA Wire via Jewish News)

He said that “the denial of the problem or the claim that it was all a smear has just been a constant refrain over the last few years”. 

Joan Ryan described herself as “very relieved” at the findings of the EHRC report. “I had been very concerned as to whether the report would be strong enough,” she said. “It is very sad, but it’s very detailed, it’s in depth, and its absolutely damning.” 

The former MP, who lost a vote of confidence from her constituency Labour party in 2018, was chair of the Labour Friends of Israel and was repeatedly attacked for her views. She said this week: “Today has been described as a day of shame, but in fact it’s been four years of shame. This is the beginning of a long road ahead to root out many people within the party who have no place in it, because of their views, and that’s going to take time”.

As for Mr Corbyn, Ms Ryan, speaking immediately after the news of his suspension, said that she welcomed the move. “He is not fit to be an MP, in my view”, she said. “He has a charge sheet as long as your arm: I think suspension is not enough, and that he should be expelled. It’s not appropriate for him to be a member of the Labour Party.”

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