Ian Austin: I'm considering quitting Labour

Ian Austin says he is considering quitting the Labour Party over its culture of "extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance."

Dudley North MP Ian Austin
Dudley North MP Ian Austin

The Dudley North MP revealed he has been "thinking long and hard" over whether to follow the example of seven former Labour colleagues who resigned from the party on Monday.

He is expected to make his decision by the end of the week.

Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey left the party to stand as a new independent group, citing failures in Jeremy Corbyn's approach to anti-Semitism and Brexit.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Austin, a long time critic of the Labour leader, said a culture of "extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance" had "driven good MPs and decent people who've committed their lives to mainstream politics out of the Labour Party".

He said: "People, me included, are going to be thinking long and hard about the position we're in now.

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"It's a big decision, and I'm listening to local people. I don't shy away from difficult decisions.

"I'll think about this very carefully, I'll make my decision, and I'll be accountable for it and explain it to local people, just as I always have."

The departure of the 'gang of seven' has threatened to spark a rebellion against Mr Corbyn's leadership, and prompted Labour deputy leader Tom Watson to call for a shadow cabinet reshuffle to rid the party of its hard left focus and prevent further resignations.

In an emotional speech on Monday, the West Bromwich East MP said: "I love this party, but sometimes I no longer recognise it.”

WATCH Tom Watson's statement in full:

There followed a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on Monday night, which Mr Corbyn did not attend, that saw party chairman Ian Lavery face an angry backlash while some Labour MPs applaud those who had quit.

Mr Austin accused Mr Lavery of making the situation worse with his performance, adding: “The party has got to show it is tackling anti-Semitism.

“I don’t think he came close to demonstrating the leadership understand the scale of the problem we have.”

It came as former prime minister Tony Blair was said to be actively looking for donors to fund a new centrist party.

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