Dudley MP Ian Austin Reveals He Is Leaving Labour Party

But he has no plans to join the new Independent Group.

Labour MP Ian Austin is leaving the party, he has announced.

The Dudley North MP said he was leaving Jeremy Corbyn’s party over anti-Semitism and a takeover of the party by the hard-left.

But Austin said he had no plans to join the newly-formed Independent Group in parliament.

“The Labour Party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take,” Austin told the Dudley & Wyre Express & Star, but said he was “ashamed” of Labour under Corbyn.

“I am appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have caused to Jewish people,” he added, saying he could “never” ask his constituents to make the Labour leader prime minister.

The MP – who was elected in 2005 – told the BBC grew up listening to his dad, who was a Holocaust survivor, “teaching me about the evils of hatred and prejudice”.

The reason he joined the Labour Party in 1984 was to fight racism, he said.

“I could never have believed that I would be leaving the Labour Party because of racism.”

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said he was “very sad” to lose another colleague.

“It’s also personally hard to see a close friend take a decision of this magnitude,” he wrote on Twitter.

The politician is the ninth to leave the Labour benches since Monday, with seven MPs – including Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger – spectacularly splitting from the party on Monday over anti-Semitism and Corbyn’s handling of Brexit.

They were later joined by Labour’s Joan Ryan and Conservatives Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.

In the wake of Austin’s resignation, a number of ‘TIG’ members welcomed his decision, with Umunna commending him for staying “true to his values”.

Meanwhile, Chris Leslie wrote on Twitter: “Full respect for @IanAustinMP and his difficult decision to leave @UKLabour today.

“Politics is broken and it is so important MPs stand up for the mainstream values we share.”

But a spokesperson for Labour called on Austin to quit as an MP and contest a by-election.

“We regret that Ian Austin has left the Labour Party,” they said.

“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.”

Analysis from HuffPost UK’s executive editor for politics Paul Waugh:

“A keen cyclist, Austin has finally got on bike and ridden out of the party he has represented for more than 26 years. In an interview with his local Express and Star newspaper, he cited Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to deal with anti-semitism in the party.

Austin’s adoptive father Fred escaped the Nazis in 1939 (read this very moving account of his backstory), but the rest of his Jewish family perished in the Holocaust. The former minister made a wider point about the idea of Corbyn in No.10: “I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister”.

He has long been one of the most combative critics of Corbyn and his allies, squaring up to figures like Chris Williamson and Ian Lavery. A key right-hand man to Gordon Brown for years, his departure will not be mourned by the Left. But it highlights how even ‘Brownites’ are now as far from Corbynism as ‘Blairites’ ever were.

Austin said he won’t be joining The Independent Group (TIG) of MPs, which is no surprise, given that he wants Brexit delivered for his Leave-voting constituents. Meanwhile, the 11-strong not-quite-a-party-party are aware they have to maximise their new-found leverage as quickly as possible. One of the ways they wield power is of course in playing a key role in any new confidence votes that could trigger a general election.

As I said yesterday, one key test will be just whether former Labour MPs are prepared to prop up Theresa May in future votes, and what their price would be if they did.”


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