Former Labour MP Ian Austin quits Parliament and urges voters to back Boris Johnson

Posted On: 
7th November 2019

Former Labour MP Ian Austin has called on voters to back Boris Johnson at the general election.

Ian Austin said Jeremy Corbyn was not fit to be Prime Minister.
PA Images

He said Jeremy Corbyn was "completely unfit to lead our country" as he also confirmed that he is quitting Parliament after 14 years.

Mr Austin, who has been the independent MP for Dudley since quitting the Labour party in February, claiming it had been "broken" by Jeremy Corbyn's inability to stamp out anti-semitism in its ranks.

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Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, the former Labour minister said he could not tell voters in his constituency to back Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister.

He said: "I only ever wanted to be a Labour MP, and I only ever wanted to be the Labour MP for Dudley, and it's been such a huge privilege to do this job.

"But I've got to be honest with people and I'm not going to run at this election. The country faces a big choice. There's only two people who can be Prime Minister on 13 December - Jeremy Corbyn or Boris Johnson. And I think Jeremy Corbyn is completely unfit to lead our country, and completely unfit to lead the Labour party.

"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."

In an outspoken personal attack on the Labour leader, he went on: "I don't think he's a patriot, I don't think he loves this country. He always picks this country's enemies - the IRA during the Troubles or describing Hamas and Hezbollah as friends, or parroting Putin's propaganda when the Russians sent hitmen to murder people on the streets of Britain. 

"But most shamefully of all, for a party that's got a proud record of fighting for equality and opposing racism, the Labour party's been poisoned by anti-Jewish racism under his leadership and it is a complete and utter disgrace."

Mr Austin's comments came just hours after his close ally Tom Watson announced that he was standing down as an MP and as Labour's deputy leader.

Despite his well-documented differences with Mr Corbyn, he insisted his decision was "personal, not political".

Responding to the comments, Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said: "I am very sad. Ian did great work as an MP. Of course, he has been an independent now for some time and I don't think it is any secret that he has differed on positions of policy and he doesn't like Jeremy, I think that is pretty clear.

"But certainly, voting for Boris Johnson if you are a Labour voter and you want to protect your community, it is absolutely absurd. And it makes no sense at all. And I hope that when Jeremy is Prime Minister that Ian will change his mind and will start to campaign within the Labour Party again."

Meanwhile, Tory minister Rishi Sunak, said: “This is a truly devastating indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

“Ian Austin has been a Labour MP for 14 years so he knows Corbyn better than most. He says that a vote for Corbyn’s Labour would put businesses and jobs at risk, that Corbyn’s economic policies would make our country worse and that his ideas on Brexit are a complete fantasy.

“This comes straight after the party’s second most powerful person quit because he could no longer support Corbyn, in another hammer blow to his authority.

“Corbyn’s MPs are saying what we all know – he is unfit to be Prime Minister. Only a vote for a majority Conservative Government will avoid the chaos of two more referendums, Get Brexit Done and move our country forwards to a bright future.”