I grew up in Dudley and love the place. Being the local MP is the greatest privilege in the world and I am so grateful to have the chance to serve this community. I work hard every day to repay the confidence people have placed in me and I promise I will carry on working just as hard to help local people, stand up for Dudley and improve things in the area.
I learnt important values growing up in Dudley. The importance of fairness and playing by the rules. Knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. Basic decent British values.
I grew up listening to my Dad – a refugee from the Holocaust – teaching me about the evils of hatred and prejudice. One of the main reasons I joined the Labour Party as a teenager here in Dudley more than 35 years ago was to fight racism, and I could never have believed that I’d be leaving because of racism too.
I have fought intolerance and prejudice all my life. Our first campaign when I became an MP was to work with local councillors and community groups to drive the BNP out of Dudley. Last year I organised a Rally Against Racism in the Birmingham hotel where Enoch Powell made his “Rivers of Blood” speech 50 years before. I’ve stood with Muslim constituents targeted by the BNP or the EDL and I will always fight for a more tolerant and united society.
The Labour Party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take, but I have to be honest and the truth is that I have become ashamed of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.
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.
It is wrong that Luciana Berger has been bullied out of the Labour Party by antisemites. It is wrong that the party threatened Margaret Hodge when she spoke out on antisemitism, like they threatened me when I raised the issue with the party chairman. They had to back down because we had done nothing wrong, but the hard truth is that the party is tougher on the people complaining about antisemitism than it is on the antisemites.
Jeremy Corbyn and the people around him have turned a mainstream party into something very different. He has spent his entire political career working with and supporting all sorts of extremists, and in some cases terrorists and antisemites. I always thought he was unfit to lead the Labour Party and I certainly think he is unfit to lead our country.
I think Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell cannot be trusted with our national security and would undermine our democratic institutions.
They supported the IRA when they were planting bombs and murdering people in shopping centres, hotels and pubs. They back totalitarian dictatorships like Venezuela abroad and echoed the Kremlin when Putin tried to murder people here in Britain.
I respect people in Dudley. I always tell them the truth and I could never ask local people to make him Prime Minister. That is why I have decided to leave the Labour Party.
Other decent MPs, councillors and members – good friends of mine – have chosen to remain. I know they share my concerns and it is not for me to call on them to leave, but I wish them well in their fight to improve things inside the party.
I will be an independent MP but I will be working just as hard to stand up for our area. Dudley has been hit hard by a decade of cutbacks. It is a disgrace to see homeless people sleeping rough in the town centre. We have fewer police and rising levels of crime. People wait too long for GP appointments or hospital treatment. Many families are struggling to make ends meet. I’ll work as hard as I always have to fight for our area and local people.
I will always do everything I can to help. My office will be open as usual and I meet people in Dudley every week, either visiting them at home, at my office, or at my local surgeries. My priority is to work for people in Dudley. I’ll be out and about knocking on doors to listen to residents just as usual.
Ian Austin MP
Member of Parliament for Dudley North