Labour faced fresh controversy over its policy on antisemitism on Saturday after it emerged that a second MP who has criticised the party’s new code on the issue may face disciplinary action leading to suspension from the party.
Ian Austin, whose adoptive parents were Czech Jewish refugees who lost relatives in the Holocaust, was sent a letter earlier this month from the party’s head office warning that he was being investigated for “abusive conduct” in parliament.
The MP for Dudley North had clashed with the Labour party chair, Ian Lavery, in the House of Commons just before the parliamentary recess in a heated exchange that was witnessed by other MPs.
Austin was angry about the party’s new code, which recognises the internationally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism but does not replicate in full its list of examples – a contentious omission that has dismayed many within the party and further strained Labour’s relations with the Jewish community in the UK. Jewish newspapers joined together last week to jointly attack the party’s decision on the IHRA code, which the party has said it would review in the autumn.
The letter sent to Austin is identical to one sent a day before, on 18 July, to the veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who was told that she faces disciplinary action for abusive conduct, having branded Jeremy Corbyn a “racist and antisemite”.
It informed Austin: “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.”
Austin told the Observer: “Wouldn’t it be great if they dealt with the people responsible for racism as quickly as they dealt with the people who are understandably upset about it? I am angry about antisemitism and I am angry that the Labour party can’t deal with it adequately.”
A senior figure in the British Jewish community said: “It looks like a full-scale purge.”
But a Labour party spokesman defended the action to investigate allegations of abusive behaviour among its members. “The Labour party takes all complaints extremely seriously,” he said. “These are…