In Brief

Why Ian Austin has become ninth MP to quit ‘broken’ Labour

Dudley MP blasts ‘culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance’ under Jeremy Corbyn

Ian Austin has become the ninth Labour MP this week to quit the party, saying he is “ashamed” of its actions under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Dudley North MP broke the news in an interview with the Express and Star, telling the local newspaper that leaving the party after 35 years was “the hardest decision I have ever had to take”.

Austin said he was “appalled” by the party’s response to accusations of anti-Semitism in its ranks.

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

 Austin was placed under investigation by Labour leaders last year over alleged abusive behaviour, “after expressing anger about the party’s handling of the anti-Semitism row”, The Guardian reports.

In today’s newspaper interview, he says that Labour is “broken” and that “good MPs and decent people” have been pushed away by “a culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance”.

A Labour spokesperson expressed the party’s regret about Austin’s decision, but called on him to step down and contest his seat in a by-election. “The democratic thing is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them,” the spokesperson said.

The 53-year-old MP will now sit as an independent in the House of Commons. However, he said that he currently has no plans to join the Independent Group (TIG), formed earlier this week by seven breakaway Labour MPs.

Nonetheless, the group’s Chuka Umunna is among those who have applauded Austin’s decision. 

The addition of Austin would bring to 12 the total strength of the splinter group - jokingly dubbed the Tiggers - with nine former Labour MPs and three rebel Tories.

His reluctance to team up with them is “pretty telling”, says The Spectator’s Stephen Daisley.

The West Midlands “voted 59.3% for Brexit, the highest level of any region in England”, and the fact that Austin hasn’t signed up to the breakaway group “underscores the perception that it is Continuity Remain in all but name”, Daisley argues.

“If the Tiggers are to survive in even the medium term, they need to have a vision for post-Brexit Britain,” he concludes. 

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