Joan Ryan blames Jeremy Corbyn for 'culture of anti-semitism' as she becomes eighth MP to quit Labour
Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to quit to join the new Independent Group, blaming Jeremy Corbyn for "a culture of anti-semitism" in the party.
The Enfield North MP accused the Labour leader of allowing "racism to flourish" as she joined the seven MPs who resigned from the party on Monday to set up the breakaway bloc.
Ms Ryan, who has held the seat since 1997 and chaired the Labour Friends of Israel group, told The Times she could not "stand by" after Jewish MP Lucian Berger faced a barrage of abuse from party activists.
She said: "A young woman, a Labour MP, has to leave the party because she’s Jewish, because of anti-semitism. She made it absolutely plain what she had put up with and she said, ‘This party is institutionally anti-semitic’.
"I thought about that and thought I can’t disagree with her, and I can’t see her leave and be driven out and stand by. I’m just not willing to."
The former minister follows Ms Berger, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie and Angela Smith in the Independent Group.
In a statement, Ms Ryan said she still believed in Labour's "founding principle" of equality - but warned that this was incompatible with a party that had "become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism" since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015.
"This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader," she said. "No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party."
Ms Ryan added: "I have always believed that we must be especially vigilant against the oldest hatred; history teaches us the tragic and horrific results of a failure to do so.
"I have been horrified, appalled and angered to see the Labour leadership’s dereliction of duty in the face of this evil.
"Over the past year, I have visited synagogues, attended demonstrations against antisemitism and spoken to Jewish constituents on doorsteps.
"On every occasion, I have seen and heard bewilderment, fear and anger. At all times, I pledged my solidarity and promised action.
"Today, having fought for as long as I can within the Labour party, I honour my pledge of solidarity."
Labour Friends of Israel said the "brave and principled" MP would remain as parliamentary chair of the group.
Ms Ryan's decision to quit the Labour party was quickly welcomed by fellow members of the Independent Group.
But pro-Corbyn Labour MP Chris Williamson told BBC Newsnight that he was "not entirely surprised" by Ms Ryan's departure.
"She was probably facing a de-selection in any event," he said.
On Tuesday Mr Corbyn urged MPs to unite around his policies as he launched a defen of his leadership.
"I hope they recognise that they were elected to Parliament on a manifesto that was based around investment in the future, was based around a more equal and fairer society and based around social justice," he said.
"They were elected to carry out those policies, they decided to go somewhere else and I regret that because I want our party to be strong, I want our party to be united around the policies that we have put forward."
But he said: "I recognise that leading the party means you have got to take people with you and I am determined to do that - determined to do that so that we can, when an election comes, present those policies and that determination to the public as a whole."