What happened in Enfield North?

By Mark French, Vice-Chair, Enfield North CLP

I WAS PRESENT at the Enfield North CLP meeting when a majority of the members present passed a motion of no-confidence in Joan Ryan MP because of her recent conduct. I feel that I have to respond to the inaccurate commentary that has been made by her since that meeting.

First of all, the Labour Party now has a membership of around 600,000 who can vote to elect the leading bodies of the party in a democratic way, unlike the other major UK political parties. In keeping with Labour’s finest traditions of democracy and transparency, five days before the meeting was held, Enfield North CLP sent out a notice to all its 1,000 members that there was to be a vote on a motion of no-confidence in Joan Ryan MP. Nearly 200 CLP members attended the meeting.

At the meeting itself there was plenty of time set aside for discussion prior to the vote being taken. The meeting was conducted in a polite, orderly and democratic way, with speakers for and against the motion. Joan was allowed to address the meeting before the vote was taken. There was no heckling at any time, and every speaker was treated with utmost respect.

The motion was in fact passed by 95 votes to 92, and is a clear expression by the majority of Enfield North CLP members present of their dissatisfaction with the recent conduct of their MP. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about this basic exercise of democracy by the CLP members. I am sure that most of your readers would agree that democracy is a good thing.

However, I am disappointed that following the meeting Joan has labelled all those who opposed her as “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and assorted hard left”, and said that it was a “secret and long planned divisive campaign led by a party within a party, Momentum”.

Apart from being factually incorrect, my objection to these comments is that they are meant as derogatory terms of abuse and represent a cynical attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the vote that was passed at the meeting.

That Joan has chosen to use such derogatory language when describing fellow Labour Party members is unbefitting of a parliamentarian, and can only contribute to the creation of an unhealthy and intolerant atmosphere inside the party. Smearing and dehumanising people one disagrees with are the hallmarks of the McCarthyite witch-hunt, and as such should have no place in a modern forward looking democratic organisations like the Labour Party.

The people of Enfield need a Labour government committed to halting the brutal, anti-working class, austerity policies brought in by the Tories and Lib-Dems. Regrettably, by choosing to use abusive language towards those who disagree with her, Joan is continuing to behave in a divisive manner at a time when the vast majority of Labour Party members and voters want to see unity in preparation for the coming general election.

This article first appeared in Labour Briefing magazine.