John McDonnell accuses Ian Austin of 'working for the Tories' following Jeremy Corbyn 'unfit' to be PM claim
John McDonnell has accused Ian Austin of “speaking on behalf of the Tories” after the former Labour MP branded Jeremy Corbyn "completely unfit" to be Prime Minister.
In a stinging blast, Mr Austin said Labour was “broken” by Jeremy Corbyn's failure to rid its ranks of anti-semitism and said the public should vote to keep Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
It came as he confirmed that he would not seek re-election to his Dudley seat, which he has represented as an independent since February following his resignation from Labour.
But the Shadow Chancellor later hit back at his ex-colleague, who he said was “employed by the Tories”, in a swipe at his appointment as a trade envoy to Israel by former PM Theresa May in July.
Following a speech in Liverpool, Mr McDonnell responded: "He’s now employed by the Tories."
"What else do you expect him to do in an election campaign when employed by the Tories? You speak on behalf of the Tories. That’s what this was about this morning."
Mr Austin told BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Thursday that he could not tell voters in his constituency to back Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister.
He said: "I joined the Labour party as a teenager. I worked for the Labour party. In my 30s I was a government adviser, in my 40s I was an MP and a minister.
"So it's really come to something when I tell decent, traditional, patriotic Labour voters that they should be voting for Boris Johnson at this election."
"I can't believe it's come to this, but that's where we are." He added: "What Jeremy Corbyn has done to the Labour party, I don't want him to do that to the country."
On the claim that Mr Austin was employed by the Tories, a senior Conservative source said: "Just as they have responded when faced with evidence of anti-semitism, the default choice of Corbyn and the cabal around him is to resort to smears and flat out lies."
Elsewhere the former MP said that Labour had been "poisoned by anti-Jewish racism" under the current leadership, which he branded a "complete and utter disgrace".
In Liverpool, Mr McDonnell also said he was "saddended" by an editorial in the Jewish Chronicle which spoke of the community's fears about a Labour government and urged voters not to put them into power.
However he added: "We’re doing everything asked of us to address this issue. Yes, it was a tiny number, less than a tenth of 1% of the issues in terms of our membership, but it doesn’t matter.
"One anti-semite is one too many in our movement, that’s why we’ve done everything we can".
He also insisted the party's new procedures allowed them to be "rapid" and "ruthless" in expelling those found guilty of anti-Jewish racism.