Ignore the media meltdown. Here’s what really brought down the Labour Friends of Israel Chair.

Joan Ryan
James Wright

The corporate media appears to be wilfully misrepresenting the no-confidence vote in Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair Joan Ryan MP. On 6 September, Ryan lost the non-binding vote by 94-92.

Media outlets are reporting the matter as part of a “hard-left” purge of ‘moderate’ MPs.

But there are serious reasons behind Ryan’s local Labour party voting to remove her as an MP.

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Accused of fabricating a claim of antisemitism

Al-Jazeera documentary The Lobby exposed attempts to undermine Corbyn stemming from the Israeli embassy in London. Ryan has been accused of fabricating a claim of antisemitism after an undercover reporter filmed her calling a Labour member’s question antisemitic at the 2017 party conference:

More recently, a letter from the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) chair equated upholding Palestinian ‘right of return’ with antisemitism. Novara Media senior editor Ash Sarkar laid out the problem with that:

Joan Ryan in her letter to Jeremy Corbyn said that respecting Palestinian right of return for five million Palestinian refugees is itself a denial of the Jewish right of self-determination because it would no longer be a Jewish majority state. The question I would put to other people is do you think that’s antisemitism or do you think that’s respecting UN General Assembly resolution 194?

UN resolution 194 states that:

refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date

Israel withholds the right of indigenous Palestinians who were forced out of their homeland to return. By contrast, Israel grants citizenship to any Jewish person around the world.

In the Al Jazeera documentary, the pro-Israel lobby group LFI admitted that it works “really closely” with the Israeli embassy “behind the scenes”.

Undermining Labour during 2017 general election

Ryan also undermined the Labour party during last year’s general election. Writing to voters in her constituency, the MP for Enfield North said:

I know from speaking to people around here that many who have previously voted Labour are thinking hard this time because, they tell me, they have more confidence in Theresa May as prime minister than they would have in Jeremy Corbyn.

The polls are all saying that the Conservative party will win a large majority, possibly with more MPs than they have ever had before. Realistically, no one thinks Theresa May will not be prime minister or that she will not have the majority she needs to negotiate Brexit.

In reality, Corbyn’s Labour removed May’s majority and increased Labour’s vote share by more than at any point since 1945.

No one votes for their local MP

In response to the no-confidence vote, Ryan echoed the establishment conspiracy theory that Corbyn supporters are mainly “Trots”, “Stalinists” and “Communists”.

Ryan also attempted to shift the emphasis onto her general constituency, rather than the local Labour party:

The thing is, hardly anyone votes Labour because of their local MP. Just 6% of Labour votes chose red at the ballot box because of who their local MP is. 28% backed Labour because of the Corbyn-led manifesto, 15% in opposition to the Conservatives and 13% because of Corbyn himself.

Labour voters aren’t living in the clouds. People know that policy is decided nationally and individual MPs have little power in comparison. Most MPs are elected primarily on the back of Labour as a whole. So many argue that MPs should be democratically accountable to their local party.

The media appears to be wilfully misrepresenting no-confidence votes to protect pro-establishment MPs. But the permanent position of some Labour MPs may soon come to an end. At the Labour conference in late September, the party will vote on introducing ‘open selection’. This means that members would get to vote on who represents them in parliament, based on a one member, one vote, electoral system. That could well see the end of MPs such as Ryan who cannot win over the grassroots.

That’s called democracy, not deselection. And it cannot come soon enough.

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Featured image via Al Jazeera/ YouTube

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James Wright