Ian Austin: what integrity looks like

He stood up to anti-Semitism in Labour while other MPs just looked at their shoes.

Ieuan Joy

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It’s a quality you don’t see a lot in today’s political landscape. This makes the departure of Black Country MP Ian Austin even more significant.

Austin has represented Dudley North since 2005, having previously served for decades as a councillor. He quit Labour in February this year to become an independent. He made his announcement in the local paper, the Express and Star, rather than a press conference in Westminster.

He said that, within Labour, there had developed a ‘culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance’. Enough was enough. Austin is the adopted son of Jewish refugees, and he was alarmed at the growing Jew hatred within the party.

This week, he told the Today programme that he was stepping down at this election, and that despite devoting his life to the Labour Party, he was recommending his constituents back Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn, he says, is simply unfit to be prime minister.

Since leaving Labour and sitting as an independent, Austin has remained a strong and vocal critic of Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. In September, he called them both out in parliament, describing them as ‘extremists who have taken over this party and are dragging it into the mud’.

He took aim at their past associations with terrorists and anti-Semites, and their tolerance of anti-Semitism among the Labour membership. Austin delivered this speech while being heckled from his own side. He was told to ‘go sit somewhere else’ by people who had concluded that selling out their anti-racist principles was a price worth paying for a seat in parliament.

Austin’s criticisms of Corbyn will have resonated with many traditional Labour supporters. While many agree with Corbyn on economics, they simply cannot ignore his past or the company he has kept.

Austin’s voice on the Today programme this week, as he recommended that voters back a Tory, was full of regret. This was the sound of someone who had run out of options. Austin may hail from the Labour right. But this is not a disagreement over Brexit policy or economic policy. It’s a disagreement over racism, and the remarkable situation Labour finds itself in.

So a lifelong Labour member has turned his back on the party, arguing it has been poisoned by racism. And what was the response of John McDonnell? He said Austin was ‘employed by the Tories’. ‘What else do you expect?’, McDonnell said at an event in Liverpool.

This a lie. Austin was appointed by Theresa May as a trade envoy to Israel – a role which is completely voluntary. Labour MP Rushanara Ali plays the exact same role, only to Bangladesh. She was appointed by David Cameron. I am yet to hear McDonnell chastise her for being in the ‘pocket’ of the Tories.

But this is how the Corbynites operate. Every criticism is a smear. The widespread concerns of the Jewish community are seen as disguising ulterior motives. The reason Austin is standing down is to thwart the Labour left.

Perversely, he is being portrayed as a snake for sticking to his principles. Rather than sending out strongly worded tweets, before going on to campaign for Corbyn, as Jess Phillips and others have done, he has made a stand. Austin knows the battle for Labour’s soul was lost a long time ago. Many other MPs are just buying themselves time and making excuses.

Austin has also stood by his Leave-voting constituents. Unlike other MPs who quit Labour this year, he didn’t join Change UK or the Lib Dems. He campaigned for Remain in the referendum but believed it was his job to represent the people of Dudley North, who voted Leave by 71 per cent, in a parliament that seemed hellbent on overturning the referendum result.

The Black Country voted heavily to leave, and Labour has offered people there a Brexit policy that is as clear as mud. It is promising a second referendum on a ‘Labour deal’ that shadow ministers say they will campaign against.

It was Labour’s position on Brexit that almost cost Austin his seat in 2017. He is sitting on a majority of 22 votes. Dudley North could be about to swing to the Conservatives for the first time in history.

Nothing Ian Austin has said about Labour is particularly new. Commentators, anti-racism campaigners and other MPs have all raised similar concerns about anti-Semitism. But he was one of the very few MPs to back up his words with action.

The Corbyn project won’t last forever. I doubt history will look kindly upon this movement, which called for a ‘kinder, gentler politics’ only to poison the Labour Party with anti-Semitism, leading it to be the first party to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission since the fascist BNP.

Austin says his father taught him ‘always to stand up to racism and prejudice’. This is something his colleagues pretend to do on Twitter and in TV interviews, but have failed to do in their actions. When it came to the crunch, they looked at their feet.

Now they will ask the nation to make a man they despise prime minister.

Ieuan Joy is a student journalist based in Sheffield. Follow him on Twitter: @JoyIeuan.

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Hugh Roper

11th November 2019 at 10:08 am

Judging from his political record, Austin is a nasty piece of work and parliament is well rid of him. He is a xenophobe and a warmonger. May I quote here from Wikipedia to support that view?
“In October 2014, and again in December 2016, [Austin] called for greater action to limit immigration, and proposed a range of measures to achieve this, including tighter border controls, fingerprinting immigrants, deporting foreign criminals, reducing benefits entitlement, charging foreigners for NHS care, putting immigrants at the bottom of the housing list and measures to discourage the employment of immigrants rather than British citizens.”
“In July 2016, Austin was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons for heckling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn by shouting “sit down and shut up” and “you’re a disgrace”, as Corbyn criticised the 2003 invasion of Iraq in his response to the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry.”

Eric Blair

10th November 2019 at 12:47 pm

I have yet to see any concrete evidence that the Labour Party has any more of a problem with anti-semitism than any other party or of the population in general. Corbyn’s guilt by association is also a jibe that could be applied across the board.

Jim Lawrie

10th November 2019 at 11:26 am

It seems to me that by keeping comments in moderation for a few days, this publication is controlling the debate.

Jim Lawrie

10th November 2019 at 11:20 am

How many Jеws, including Mr Austin, has the Labour Party selected for election as MP’s? Are they over or under represented?

Why is Spikеd so keen to support this witch hunt in The Labour Party?
I am not given to condemning the State of Israеl. But neither do I want to silence those who do. Highlighting their ignorance of Israel, past and present, is the way to do that. If they would ever let you speak.

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Linda Payne

9th November 2019 at 4:44 pm

I would like to see more examples of this anti semitism rather than a few offensive tweets, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but in the case of politicians complaining about abuse whether that be about Brexit or anything else Spiked’s position on this is just man up and quite rightly it is not a criminal issue. Israel in its conception was never forgiven by the left for aligning itself to the West rather than the USSR and muslim anti semitism has grown from that, I would guess seeing as muslim anti semitism encouraged by the left is particularly nasty but again I’ve not come across the examples apart from some offensive placades. It’s the oldest hatred and it must be challenged but we need more information on who in the Labour party is fostering this racism

antoni orgill

9th November 2019 at 9:27 am

What were the findings of the Equality & Human Rights Commission? Given that the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (an issue not unrelated to traditional support for Palestine on the left of the party) is the basis for this article and cited by the author why not quote from it to substantiate the claim made ..? It’s an odd ommission …

Jonnie Henly

9th November 2019 at 7:56 am

I look forward to the Spiked article praising the integrity of Ken Clarke…..

What about Dominic Grieve? Philip Hammond?

Somehow, I won’t hold my breath

Jonnie Henly

9th November 2019 at 7:49 am

Amazing how all of these anti Corbyn MPs resign and yet are never willing to put themselves up for election ahain…. No by election, and they stand down at the next GE.

They detest Corbyn, yet they know they can’t win without him…

Jonnie Henly

9th November 2019 at 7:47 am

If he thought Corbyn was unfit to be PM, why did he stand as a Labour MP at the last election when Corbyn was running to be PM?

Janet Tanner-Tremaine

8th November 2019 at 6:47 pm

If you want to see why, here’s one example…

In Negative

8th November 2019 at 6:06 pm

Did he put himself up for a bielection when he went independant?

“Don’t you wish everyone had some goddamn Tegrity.”


8th November 2019 at 5:08 pm

I keep hearing this business about the Labour party being anti-semitic. I’d be very grateful if someone could provide some evidence of this as at the moment i’m skeptical

jessica christon

8th November 2019 at 6:05 pm

I’ve not seen any evidence of it either. Jeremy Corbyn’s history supporting Hamas often gets cited, but in those days I don’t think he ever met a rebel cause that he didn’t like.

Janet Tanner-Tremaine

8th November 2019 at 6:54 pm

You mean the IRA? Yes, after the IRA bombed a hotel and killed people and injured others, he invited them to Parliament…!!! The man is an idiot and needs to take the same road as Ton Watson…OUT of parliament.

Janet Tanner-Tremaine

8th November 2019 at 6:41 pm

You asked about Corbyn being anti-Semitic. Perhaps you would like to read this and make your own mind up…?

Eric Praline

8th November 2019 at 7:56 pm

Yes it all seems rather vague, isolated incidents. There was a dossier I understand.

Willie Penwright

8th November 2019 at 9:30 pm

The evidence is in the repetition of the unsubstantiated accusation.

Dominic Straiton

9th November 2019 at 1:05 pm

I wasnt talking to you. Theres no point.

Dominic Straiton

8th November 2019 at 9:33 pm

The labour party hate Israel but for some reason hold Pakistan to lower standards. They are not only anti semitic but racist for doing so. Israel and Pakistan were founded in the 1940s as religious states. They have both been at war with their neighbours over land . They both have developed nuclear weapons. Only Pakistan persecutes and murders religious and ethnic minorities as state policy. There is no academic calls for a boycott of Pakistan. So make your own mind up.

Willie Penwright

9th November 2019 at 10:48 am

It’s a tough call choosing between evil regimes but I think Israel wins as it is engaged in ethnic-cleansing of the native popultion, bulldozing farms to make way for fortified settlements on the stolen land. And, so I won’t be called an antisemite, even by your loosest of definitions, Pakistan is also a black hole of human rights.

Eric Blair

10th November 2019 at 1:02 pm

Because Israel believes itself to be a modern state, nominally part of Europe (look at the football, Eurovision etc.), funded and supported by the USA. It is not and does not consider itself to be a Third World nation and only marginally a Middle Eastern one, and is therefore, held to the same standard as other modern, prosperous European states. If the Netherlands started behaving as Israel does, acquiring a nuclear weapons programme, excluding some residents from full citizenship, and annexing neighbouring country’s land, I think you would find a similar response from political parties in the UK who espouse liberal values.

Northern 1312

8th November 2019 at 4:47 pm

Blair-ite neo-liberal sympathy bollocks. Member of parliament and integrity are mutually exclusive categories these days. What a moral tour-de-force Ian Austin must be, to sit through all those regime change wars and the expenses scandals, just to knife his leader in the back on the eve of an election over some contrived, evidence free accusations of antisemitism.

Supporting the oppressed Palestinian people is NOT antisemitic.

Dominic Straiton

8th November 2019 at 5:00 pm

I hope you have the same zeal for the oppressed Christians of Pakistan.

Northern 1312

8th November 2019 at 5:20 pm

All peoples should have the right to self determination. What do Pakistani Christians have to do with Ian Austin?

Ven Oods

9th November 2019 at 10:14 am

“What do Pakistani Christians have to do with Ian Austin?”

As in: what do state-murdered people anywhere have anything to do with the rest of us? Or, what do all those Iraqi civilians killed by Dubya and Tone mean to the rest of us?

Janet Tanner-Tremaine

8th November 2019 at 6:52 pm

About the “oppressed” Palestinian people. They could work towards peace with their Israeli neighbours but they choose, at Hamas’ instigation, to cause chaos and to target Israeli settlements (where Arabs are living and working too). They choose not to stop their bombardment and stabbings of Israeli people and then complain when Israel (rightly) retaliates.

Willie Penwright

8th November 2019 at 9:36 pm

Oppressed people have always been told this by their masters. Just don’t resist, obey us and we’ll probably give you home rule or something along those lines eventually maybe. Meanwhile we’ll still have to imprison you, take your land and shoot a few of your every week.
“Palestine unfree will never be at peace.”

A Game

8th November 2019 at 4:10 pm

Damn straight. The provinciality of the Corbyn cultists – that everything is black and white, that every issue, there is a good guy, bad guy and no shades of grey. That terrorists and genocidal idealogues are the oppressed and downtrodden, which means you must hate who they hate, without deviation, without analysis, without empathy, and then unleash that with aggression and intolerance.
What is it? The Middle East for simpletons.
That the Momentum sheltered workshop has been deliberately militarised, to be mindless, malleable, biddable… that a political position (Corby’s for a two state solution? Or one state? Or annihilation of the Jewish people in the middle east?) must be emotional and hateful and absolute. Is this Labour’s future?

I Joy is correct. Labour MPs and party members who question this rabid, nonsensical hatred of Israel the oppressor, but are sitting quiet in order to attain power at any cost… well… who does that remind you of?
“I don’t quite agree with this final solution business, but I’ll end up in an oven myself if I don’t toe the line, so… final solution it is.”
That the issue has gone on, and on… the investigation happening, Jewish MPs speaking out… nothing changing, nothing shifting. That they wish to import the, frankly, insurmountable problems of the Middle East into Britain, is another aspect of their anti British mentality. People should be in Britain to get away from this quagmire. Muslims and Jews should be living side by side in the UK, in Europe, glad to be away from it, even if they have their own thoughts on what the solution might be, or which side they support or hopes wins. But instead, they want to add high octane fuel to the fire, foster those divisions in their own country, the same level of hatred.
The hypocrisy is what is the most galling. These are the people talking up humane reason and sense. And as I Joy states, their actions are not in sync with their words at all.
All of Labour, if they want to keep patching up the sinking ship of extremism, deserve to all go down with it.

Lloyd Reid

8th November 2019 at 3:29 pm

The man to use a Jewish word i understand is a menche. A man of honour.

Mike Ellwood

9th November 2019 at 8:23 pm

Jim Lawrie

10th November 2019 at 11:38 am

No. He is playing the martyr. He owes his entire career to The Labour Party.

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