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UK Labour won’t sanction MP who branded its anti-Semitism policy a ‘disgrace’

Party reprimands Ian Austin over heated debate with official, but lawmaker says he will ‘make no apologies,’ slams ‘appalling’ handling of inquiry against him

UK Labour MP Ian Austin accuses party leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism during a Commons debate on April 17, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
UK Labour MP Ian Austin accuses party leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism during a Commons debate on April 17, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The British Labour Party will not take action against an MP who had been accused of cursing at party chairman Ian Lavery during a “heated discussion” about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

Ian Austin, the adopted child of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, had been potentially facing disciplinary action and possible suspension from the party. The inquiry against him was initiated in July.

Eventually, the party decided to formally reprimand him for his behavior and warn him about his future conduct, but not suspend him or take any other action, British media reported Tuesday, citing a Labour source.

In July, Austin wrote that he felt “shocked and ashamed” at his party’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism among its members, in an opinion piece in the Guardian newspaper. He also criticized as a “disgrace” the party’s reluctance to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition in full, a step that was eventually taken in September.

In a statement, Austin said he would “make no apologies for being upset about anti-Semitism. I think every Labour Party member ought to be angry about racism and the failure to deal with it properly.”

“But I did not scream abuse, as was alleged, so I am pleased the Labour Party have dropped its threat to hold an investigation,” he added. “Frankly, they should never have threatened this in the first place. The way this whole issue has been handled is unacceptable and the time it has taken is appalling.

“The Labour Party’s priority ought to be doing everything it can to win back the trust of the Jewish community, not investigating people like me for complaining about their failure to tackle anti-Semitism properly.”

In his opinion piece, Austin wrote about his father’s family, whom he said were all murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

In his criticism, Austin, who represents Dudley North, singled out Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying that, under his leadership, some members of the Labour Party “go beyond legitimate and passionately held views about the plight of the Palestinians and tip over into anti-Semitism.”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses delegates on the final day of the Labour party conference in Liverpool, northwest England, on September 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS)

“I am shocked and ashamed that a party that has had such a proud tradition of fighting racism has caused huge offence and distress to the Jewish community,” he wrote.

Austin was the second MP to face a disciplinary hearing over the accusations of anti-Semitism within Labour. In July, MP Dame Margaret Hodge was warned after she confronted party head Jeremy Corbyn and called him an “anti-Semite and a racist.” That process was concluded in August, with the party saying no further action would be taken against her.

Margaret Hodge MP (YouTube screenshot)

Corbyn has been dogged for the last two years by complaints of anti-Semitism within party ranks, as well as allegations that he too holds anti-Semitic views. He has said the party deplores all forms of racism.

Earlier this month, British police launched a criminal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitic hate crimes within the opposition party, saying that it was acting on a dossier of information given to London police chief Cressida Dick. A police spokesman said it was handed to her on September 4 following an interview on LBC radio.

LBC had in its possession an internal Labour Party dossier that detailed 45 cases involving social media posts by party members, including one post that read: “We shall rid the Jews who are a cancer on us all.”

The police statement said the person making the complaint “alleged that the documentation included evidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes. The contents have been examined by specialist officers. A criminal investigation has commenced into some of the allegations within the documentation.”

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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