MP Ian Austin quits Labour - but won't join the Independent group
PUBLISHED: 09:17 22 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:39 22 February 2019
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MP Ian Austin has become the ninth MP to quit the Labour Party - but says he will not join the new Independent group in the Commons.
The Dudley North MP said he was quitting the “broken” party and was “ashamed” of what it had become under Corbyn.
But the former minister said he had no plans to join his eight former colleagues in the Independent Group.
In an interview with the Express & Star newspaper he said: “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.”
He added that “I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister”, and said he was “appalled at the offence and distress” the party had caused to Jewish people.
“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,” he said.
“The hard truth is that the party is tougher on the people complaining about anti-Semitism than it is on the anti-Semites.”
Austin added that “the hard left is now in charge of the party” and “I just can’t see how it can return to the mainstream party that won elections and changed the country for the better”.
His resignation follows those of eight other MPs who quit Labour and formed the Independent Group - but Austin said he had not spoken to the group, which also contains three ex-Tories.
“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.
Rumours of Austin’s departure prompted shadow chancellor John McDonnell to acknowledge that criticisms raised by Labour MPs as “valid” and to urge anyone considering resignation to stay in the party and help “hold the family together”.
Speaking to the Press Association during a visit to Willenhall in the West Midlands, he said: “If Ian Austin is considering leaving, my message to him is, ‘Don’t go, stay with us, you’ve raised valid concerns, you can help us sort this out’.”
Austin voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum but has since advocated backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.