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19th Feb 2019

Young Labour criticised for Twitter response to Joan Ryan’s resignation from party

James Dawson

The tweet towards Ryan – who had served as the Labour Friends of Israel chair since 2015 – has since been deleted

Young Labour has come under fire on social media for its response to Joan Ryan’s resignation from the party to join the breakaway the Independent Group in parliament.

Announcing her decision on Tuesday evening, the Enfield North MP claimed that Labour had “become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism” since Corbyn was elected as leader. Prior to quitting the party, Ryan had served as the chair of the Labour Friends of Israel group since 2015.

However, responding on Twitter, Young Labour wrote: “Joan Ryan Gone – Palestine Lives.”

Social media users were quick to criticise Young Labour’s response to Ryan quitting the party.

One person wrote: “I know many decent people in the Labour party but the party they joined prior to 2015 is now a lost cause, taken over by nasty extremists. I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been for Joan Ryan and she has my respect.”

Another added: “The absolute state of Young Labour. Keep it up guys, becoming more unelectable by the hour.”

Miriam Mirwatch, chairwoman of Young Labour, said that she had not written the post and that she “condemned” it. She added that she would continue “fighting for an open, inclusive and welcoming Young Labour”.

“To make crystal clear, I did not send the tweet about Joan Ryan from the Young Labour Twitter account and I utterly condemn it,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Multiple members of YL committee have access to the account.

“I’ll never stop fighting for an open, inclusive and welcoming Young Labour.”

She added: “Please don’t think the online conduct of a few on social media represents the whole of Young Labour.

“There’s so much talent, so many brilliant activists and so much to be proud of in our movement. I’ll never stop fighting to make our movement a welcoming and inclusive place.”

The incident follows Young Labour – to which anybody in the party aged from 14 up until the age of 26 is automatically part of – responding to the announcement of the Independent Group’s formation by calling the breakaway MPs “cowards and traitors”, a reference to the lyrics of Labour party anthem ‘The Red Flag’.

Explaining her decision to leave the party after 35 years as a member, Ryan said: “I cannot remain a member of the Labour Party while its leadership allows Jews to be abused with impunity and the victims of such abuse to be ridiculed, have their motives questioned, and their integrity called into doubt.

She added: “Over the past three years, however, the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism.

“This problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader. No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party.”

The move follows Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey all quitting the Labour party on Monday. It is the first split of its kind since the SDP broke away from Labour in 1981.

Speaking at a press conference, Jewish MP Berger explained: “This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.”

She added that as a Jewish woman she was “ashamed” to continue as a Labour member and that anti-Semitism was now institutionalised in the party.