West Midlands Labour MP Ian Austin is the subject of at least two formal complaints by fellow Labour MPs Ian Lavery and Chris Williamson relating to at least three instances of alleged abusive conduct described as at extremely close quarters and extremely aggressive.
The outburst toward Lavery, as eyewitnesses reported to the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire, contained no political point. One of the two at Williamson has been described as:
an incoherent rant accusing [Chris] of all manner of things relating to racism and sexism.
In spite of this, Austin has spoken on BBC News and elsewhere denying he was abusive and claiming he was simply upset about antisemitism.
This prompted Jewish author Michael Rosen to relate an incident involving Austin’s behaviour toward him during a session of the Commons Education Committee, at which Rosen was asked to share his perspectives on antisemitism and the Holocaust.
In a series of tweets and responses to questions, Rosen outlined what he described as a ‘full frontal assault’ by Austin against him for making a point Austin didn’t want to hear – and when one correspondent described Austin’s behaviour as ‘thuggish’ (a word that has been used about him before), Rosen did not disagree:
Mr Rosen was right – the session, which took place in December 2015, was recorded. Here is the footage of the pertinent exchange, in which Austin persistently talks over and aggressively interrupts a guest invited to help the Education Committee, before dismissing his viewpoint – twice – as ‘absolute nonsense’:
Austin’s outburst that the reason Britain wasn’t invaded by the nazis was ‘because Britain fought back on its own‘ is shockingly disrespectful. It ignores, for example, the sacrifice of the soldiers of other nations who did try to resist the nazis or the free Polish, Czech, French and others who were among the troops who pushed the Germans back on D-Day and afterward.
It also ignores the decisive roles played by US and Soviet troops, at huge cost in lives – and surely betrays a simplistic, even jingoistic tendency. His “Dad’s Army” bluster would be comical if his attitude was not so objectionable.
Austin has a track record for boorish – thuggish – behaviour, but presented himself to the media on Sunday as an innocent offended by the evil Labour Party.
But his readiness to steamroll and denigrate the opinion of a respected Jewish parliamentary guest, recorded by Commons cameras, betrays a brittle, volatile temperament and calls into question his respect for and self-control towards people – including Jewish people – who dare to contradict him.
Certainly Michael Rosen felt disrespected and – in his own words – assaulted out of nowhere.
Ian Austin has been contacted for comment.
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