Ian Austin has become the ninth MP to quit the Labour party this week. This leaves Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in crisis.
The MP for Dudley North in the West Midlands is reported to have been disaffected with the party leadership for a couple of years. Speaking to the media he said there was a “culture of extremism, antisemitism and intolerance” in the Labour Party.
Austin said that under Corbyn, Labour had changed. “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.”
He criticised Jeremy Corbyn and said he did not want the Labour leader to enter Downing Street, saying: “I always tell them the truth and I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister.”
Austin holds his seat with a majority of 22 and has been the MP since 2005. But he has had a series of run-ins with the leadership over issues such as antisemitism, which he said was one of the principal reasons for his resignation.
“I am appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have caused to Jewish people. It is terrible that a culture of extremism, antisemitism 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 antisemitism than it is on the antisemites.”
Last year Austin was placed under investigation by the party after he became embroiled in a row with the party chairman, Ian Lavery, over the handling of the antisemitism issue in the summer. The investigation was dropped in November, and Austin hit out at the “appalling” handling of the case.
His resignation follows those of eight other MPs, including Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna, who quit Labour and formed the Independent Group. They were joined by three Conservatives earlier this week.
A party spokesperson 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.”
Austin has given no indication that he would resign.