Ian Austin is second MP to face party probe in anti-Semitism code row
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Ian Austin is second MP to face party probe in anti-Semitism code row

Labour provokes fresh outrage by pursuing complaint as Margaret Hodge awaits her fate

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Ian Austin MP
Ian Austin MP

Labour politicians have condemned as “ridiculous” an investigation into fellow MP Ian Austin after he clashed with the party chairman over its new code on anti-Semitism.

Labour is already risking fallout from its own backbenchers including Jewish MPs by threatening Margaret Hodge with action after she labelled Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite to his face.

Now The Observer has reported that Austin, the Dudley North MP and the adopted son of Jewish refugees, received a similar letter from the party a day later warning he faced investigation for “abusive conduct”. It said: “You should be aware that any future behaviour of a similar nature to the allegation above could result in further disciplinary action, including the possibility of administrative suspension while the matter is investigated.”

It came after a heated exchange with the party chairman Ian Lavery in the House of Commons after the party’s governing body adopted its code of conduct on anti-Semitism that excludes some examples of contemporary anti-Semitism attached to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition.

Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said: “These investigations in Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin are ridiculous. We need to be tough on antisemitism, not the people who call it out. I simply cannot understand why anyone would allow this situation to persist.”

The Jewish Leadership Council chair Jonathan Goldstein – who described Austin as “a good man, a loyal Labour man” – told Jewish News: “Any self-respecting anti-racist campaigner, knowing his background , would be sympathetic to his position and not look to pick a fight. The same with Margaret Hodge. The speed with which they are tackled compared to the approach to allegations of anti-Semitism – it’s almost like the party are excited about it.”

He said the escalating crisis of the last two weeks show “we’re in the middle of an ideological battle not of our choosing”. He pointed out that the leadership had supposedly asked Jennie Formby to make tackling anti-Semitism a priority but the almost total lack of consultation with the community over the IHRA definition showed “a total lack of respect. We can only assume this is a battle they want”.

The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council has also not been asked to attend any further meetings with Corbyn, despite plans for follow-up talks this month.

A Labour Party spokesperson said of Austin’s case: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously. These are fully investigated in line with Party rules and procedures.”

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