- Labour MP Ian Austin becomes the ninth to quit the party this week, blaming a “culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance.”
- “The hard truth is that the party is tougher on the people complaining about anti-Semitism than it is on the anti-Semites,” Austin said.
- Austin will not join the breakaway Independent Group of MPs which seven Labour MPs and three Tory MPs joined this week.
- The Labour party calls on Austin to quit his seat and fight a by-election.
LONDON – Ian Austin has become the ninth Labour MP to quit the party this week in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and handling of allegations of antisemitism.
The Dudley North MP, who was elected in 2005, said he had become “ashamed of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn” and accused the leadership of being tougher on those who complain about anti-Semitism than on the perpetrators of abuse.
“I am appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have caused to Jewish people,” he told his local newspaper the Express and Star.
“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.”
However, he said he had no plans to join the Independent Group of MPs which eight Labour MPs and three Tory MPs joined this week.
Unlike the Independent Group MPs, Austin is a supporter of Brexit and is unlikely to join the group whose members are callling for a second referendum.
A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn called on Austin to resign his seat and fight a by-election.
“We regret that Ian Austin has left the Labour Party. He was elected as a Labour MP and so the democratic thing to do is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them,” they said.
Allegations of anti-Semitism have dogged Corbyn’s Labour party since he became leader in 2016 with growing numbers of complaints about abusive and racist behaviour by current members.
Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who quit Labour this week after branding the party “institutionally antisemitic”, tweeted her support for Austin saying: “I fully understand why Ian Austin has come to this difficult and painful decision.”
She was backed by her fellow Independent Group MP Chuka Umunna, who tweeted that he had “massive respect” for Austin “for making this incredibly difficult decision – it’s painful and hard but he has stayed true to his values and what he believes to be the national interest.”
Both the Labour and Conservative parties are braced for further resignations over the coming days and weeks with two senior Conservative backbenchers warning this week that they could leave their party.
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