Express & Star comment: Ian Austin is sticking to his principles

In an age where politicians are regularly demeaned for acting out of self-interest, it is refreshing when one of them puts their country first.

Ian Austin left Labour to become an independent MP in February
Ian Austin left Labour to become an independent MP in February

Ian Austin made a bold move earlier this year when he quit the Labour Party.

He said he could no longer tolerate the words and actions that for many, have become the accepted norm under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Now he has taken things a stage further and stepped down from Parliament in an effort to boost the Conservatives’ chances of winning Dudley North for the first time in the history of the constituency.

Mr Austin will no doubt come in for criticism from many for his decision to endorse the Tories.

Ian Austin, left, and Tom Watson are both standing down at the 2019 election

Those supporting Mr Corbyn will see it as an entirely predictable move for a man who has no truck with their side of the debate.

But even his harshest critics should be able to see that he has stayed true to his principles.

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This is a man who was a Labour member for more than 35 years, who achieved his long-held dream of being able to represent the people of the town where he grew up.

But in recent years he has watched his party become unrecognisable from the one that he joined.

His announcement comes after Labour deputy leader Tom Watson also stepped away from frontline politics.

He too has had his differences with Mr Corbyn, and as a result has become something of a target for the hard-left.

Mr Watson insists that the personal abuse he has received had nothing to do with his decision.

But many will see his departure as another example of the purging of the moderates from the Labour Party.

For Mr Austin, his reason for being in the House of Commons was always to represent the people who elected him – which is exactly as it should be.

There is a real danger that Labour is losing some of its most seasoned and respected politicians.

As for Mr Corbyn, when a lifelong Labour member backs the Tories to block him, and his deputy quits as the election campaign kicks off, he really should be worried.

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