Right-wing Labour MP Ian Austin is already infamous among the Corbyn-supporting majority of Labour members for heckling his own leader in the Commons chamber last year, helping the Tories when they were reeling and in chaos over Brexit, as Corbyn made his statement after the publication of the Chilcot Report.
He was widely criticised for his ‘pathetic and thuggish’ behaviour:
It seems Mr Austin has not much changed his ways.
The SKWAWKBOX received reports of a confrontation between Austin and Labour front-bencher Chris Williamson at Westminster’s Portcullis House on Monday night, in which the former behaved in a way described as childish and immature, before launching into an attempted attack on Williamson for alleged antisemitic comments that he was then apparently unable to substantiate when challenged.
When contacted for comment, Williamson told the SKWAWKBOX:
I was coming back to PCH (Portcullis House) from Norman Shaw [Building] and Ian must have been in the other Shaw building as he was following across the bridge to PCH. I ignored him and he ignored me, but we arrived more or less together.
I held the door open for him like I would for anyone but he refused to go through and just stood there. It was like it was a battle of wills or something, but eventually he went through. I said ‘After you, comrade’ – but he insisted he was no comrade of mine. I told him we were both members of the Labour Party so we were comrades regardless.
Then he got into all this nonsense about antisemitism and accused me of antisemitic remarks. I told him I’ve never made any and challenged him to show me what I’ve ever said that’s antisemitic.
His retort was ‘You think you’re so virtuous, don’t you?’! He kept going on about Ken Livingstone, but he couldn’t manage the same kind of attack that John Mann made on Ken and he didn’t have the cameras there.
It’s a witch-hunt at the moment – like Salem or McCarthyism: if you accuse someone that’s enough to convict them and if you fight the accusation that just proves you’re guilty. There’ll be ducking stools next.
Ian’s behaviour was childish, frankly – unacceptable in anyone, let alone an MP
Williamson has been the target of criticism from some Jewish groups for his statement concerning ‘weaponisation’ of antisemitism accusations for political purposes. However, a Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) spokesman dismissed the idea that there was anything antisemitic in Williamson’s statement, saying:
As Jews, many of us are old enough to have personally learnt from our parents of the horrors befallen by family members in the holocaust. We are acutely aware of the path to which antisemitism can lead. Antisemitism carries a history of such depth of human depravity that any exploitation of this reference for other political objectives would be breathtakingly cynical and ruthless.
Yet this is precisely the strategy adopted by the right wing in the Labour Party, which has seen fit to weaponise accusations of antisemitism for political purposes – with one action they can simultaneously take out members of the Left and silence critics of Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights.
It is a brave person indeed who calls out this calumny. Such is Shadow Cabinet member Chris Williamson. And of course the sky has fallen on him: firstly in the person of the Vice President of the Board of deputies of British Jews and then, seemingly seizing the opportunity to establish his credentials, by Ian Austin, one time PPS to Gordon Brown. Expect the pack to be lining up.
However, some light: there is now a new Jewish group in the Labour Party, JVL, with an entirely different agenda: opposed to attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews, our political priorities are universal human rights and dignity, justice for all, freedom of expression, and democracy in the Labour Party. Our launch is at the Labour Party Conference – look out for us.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Ian Austin for comment. He declined to comment except to say:
It was a private conversation that no one heard but me and him and I don’t know why he’d tell you about it.
The SKWAWKBOX does not comment on its sources.
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