EXCLUSIVE: Ian Austin MP latest to quit ‘broken’ Labour Party
Ian Austin told the Express & Star that he had become 'ashamed of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn'.
Ian Austin has today announced he is quitting the “broken” Labour Party over anti-Semitism and its lurch towards the hard left under Jeremy Corbyn.
In an exclusive interview with the Express & Star, the Dudley North MP said it had been the toughest decision of his life to leave the party he joined in 1984.
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The 53-year-old has become the ninth MP to leave Jeremy Corbyn’s party this week, but says he currently has no plans to join the new Independent Group set up in the Commons to fight Brexit.
Mr Austin told the E&S: “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.”
WATCH: Ian Austin on why he is quitting Labour
He said the hard left had taken over Labour to the point where it was no longer mainstream, and accused the party of being tougher on people who complain about anti-Semitism than it is on racists.
The MP said that after days of soul searching he had decided to quit Labour out of respect for his constituents.
“I always tell them the truth and I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister,” he said. “
Mr Austin said he was disgusted at the treatment of MPs including Luciana Berger and Margaret Hodge, who had taken a stand against anti-Semitism but had suffered horrendous abuse from members.
“I am appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have caused to Jewish people,” he said.
“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.”
He said he believed there was little future for Labour under its current leadership, adding: “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.”
Mr Austin has served as the MP for Dudley North since 2005 and has held ministerial positions.
He was previously a Dudley councillor and a political advisor to then Chancellor Gordon Brown.
His majority dropped from 4,181 to just 22 over the last two elections.
His resignation came as Mr Corbyn demanded that all departing Labour MPs resign and put themselves up for re-election.
Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has admitted that sometimes he hardly recognises the Labour Party.
Mr Austin said his resignation would leave some constituents “disappointed and upset”, and added: “I have to be honest with local people and I promise I will be working just as hard to stand up for our area.”
He said he had not spoken to the new anti-Brexit Independent Group, which consists of eight Labour MPs and former Tories Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen.
“I think the Labour Party is broken and clearly things have to change but that’s not what today is about, and I’ve not talked to them about that,” he said.
Labour called for Mr Austin to quit as an MP and contest a by-election.
A Labour Party 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."