Ian Austin becomes ninth MP to quit 'broken' Labour in protest against Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
22nd February 2019

Ian Austin has become the ninth Labour MP to quit the party in the past four days, saying he had become "ashamed" of its direction under Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Austin represents a pro-Brexit seat
Credit: 
PA Images

The Dudley North MP said the party had been left “broken” by the leader's inability to tackle anti-Semitism by members.

But Mr Austin - who represents a Leave-backing seat and voted for Theresa May’s Brexit deal - said he had no plans to join the other eight Labour rebels who have quit since Monday in the Independent Group, which wants to keep Britain in the EU.

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The former frontbencher told his local paper the Express and Star: “The Labour party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take.

“But I have to be honest and the truth is that I have become ashamed of the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn.”

On the issue of anti-Semitism, he said: “I am appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have caused to Jewish people.

“It is terrible that a culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people who have committed their life to mainstream politics.

“The hard truth is that the party is tougher on the people complaining about anti-Semitism than it is on the anti-Semites.”

And he added: “I think Jeremy Corbyn has completely changed what was a mainstream party into a completely different party with very different values.

“The hard left is now in charge of the party, they’re going to get rid of lots of decent mainstream MPs and I just can’t see how it can return to the mainstream party that won elections and changed the country for the better.”

A Labour spokesman said: "We regret that Ian Austin has left the Labour party.

"He was elected as a Labour MP and so the democratic thing is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them."

'SERIOUS BLOW'

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the departure of Mr Austin was a "serious blow" to the party.

He said: "I'm deeply saddened to read of Ian's decision to leave the Labour team in the Black Country.

"He has served the Labour party for nearly 30 years and is one of the hardest working MPs in the UK. I didn't want him to go, not just because he is a friend but because Labour needs people of his experience, calibre and passion if we are to win.

"There is no point in denying that his departure is a serious blow to my party. His resignation ends a week of turmoil in British politics that we must all reflect on."

BY-ELECTIONS

The party launched a conduct investigation into Mr Austin last year after he had an angry clash with chair Ian Lavery over the anti-Semitism crisis in the party, but it was later dropped.

Mr Corbyn said earlier this week that all the MPs who have quit the party this week should do the "decent" thing and trigger by-elections.

Mr Austin joins Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes and Joan Ryan in quitting Labour this week.

He has served as MP for Dudley North since 2005 but currently holds a majority of just 22 votes. Other MPs who quit the party this week said they would not be triggering by-elections.