The Enfield North parliamentary constituency has been marginal throughout most of this century, hosting a string of tussles between its current MP Joan Ryan, running for Labour, and Conservative Nick de Bois. Ryan first won the seat in the 1997 Blair landslide, seeing off Mark Field, before retaining it against challenges by de Bois in 2001 and 2005. The Tory finally deprived her of the seat in 2010, but Ryan regained it narrowly in 2015 and held it with ease two years ago.
Since then, though, Ryan’s circumstances have changed dramatically. Fiercely at odds with the Corbynites who’ve changed the character of her constituency party, especially over Israel and antisemitism, she became one of the three London Labour MPs who defected to the Independent Group, now Change UK, early this year. So who will contest Enfield North for Labour at the next election, which is increasingly expected to take place in the autumn?
Labour List has reported that the candidate selection process is already underway, and that the Left membership want Enfield local campaign forum chair Delia Mattis to prevail. What sort of candidate would she be?
An attempt by On London to contact Mattis has so far failed, but her Twitter activity provides some help. On her profile she terms herself an “argument finisher, not starter”, a “fully trained Ninja” and a “bit sweary”. Her main Twitter page photo shows a screen grab of a woman apparently at a Labour Party conference waving the Palestinian flag. Mattis has retweeted footage from last year’s Labour annual conference of pro-Palestine flags and chants.
Other recent Twitter output includes endorsements of a “Stand with Corbyn” event in Enfield and the formation of Enfield Labour Left, which calls itself “a new left wing group of activists”. Mattis has criticised Labour-run Enfield Council’s plans to get the long-stalled Meridian Water development going, and re-tweeted Chris Williamson MP thanking “grassroots members” for their support after his first suspension over antisemitism was lifted (Williamson was suspended again soon afterwards).
Mattis has been prominently involved with Momentum, the campaign group formed to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour. She was the original chair of Momentum’s Enfield branch, set up in early 2016, and in October of that year was described as the organisation’s London region chair in a report on the website of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, one of Britain’s numerous and rivalrous Trotskyist groups.
That report says Mattis disagreed with other Momentumites over the removal of Jackie Walker as Momentum vice chair following criticism of comments she had made about antisemitism and Holocaust Memorial Day. According to the Workers’ Liberty report, Mattis thought Walker should not have been relieved of her post.
By the end of that year, Momentum was consumed by in-fighting. In December, Buzzfeed reported Mattis celebrating “some fantastic gains” for her faction over Momentum’s co-founder Jon Lansman. In an email, she took particular pleasure in Walker’s election to an important Momentum committee. Walker was expelled from Labour in March of this year.
Four years earlier, in 2012, some of Mattis’s Twitter activity was different in character and tone. She addressed the BNP’s Nick Griffin as an “effin needle dick” and a “stone aged mentality arse wipe”. A woman using a mobile phone in her vicinity was called a “stupid bitch” and “common as fuck“, and Camberwell Green was described as “the arsehole of London“. Those tweets were written some time ago, but are the sort that can be put to unhelpful use by opponents of people seeking public office.
Enfield’s Labour politics as a whole are a tangle of antagonisms dotted with interventions from the party’s London region and national executive committee, and the Enfield North selection process appears already to be free of neither. It is not yet clear that Mattis will emerge as Labour’s candidate, though she is said to enjoy the strong support of Enfield North CLP secretary Maria McCaul.
Other locals rumoured to be interested include: Mattis’s fellow Corbynite and CLP vice chair Edward Poole; Enfield backbench councillors Ayfer Orhan and Tolga Aramaz; and Calvin Tucker, brother of Haringey councillor and former cabinet member Noah Tucker. If Mattis prevails, the approach to defeating her by candidates from other parties will be interesting to observe, given that fragmentations in London’s wider political landscape could make Enfield North very much a marginal seat again.
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