The last few days haven’t been kind to the Tories’ election campaign and, as sure as night follows day, there was a manufactured distraction to divert the gaze away from their myriad problems. First, came Tom Watson standing down as a candidate for West Bromwich. Then this morning, rather predictably, came the next distraction in the shape of the extremely bitter fraud, Ian Austin. Indeed, in the figure of Austin the BBC et al believed they found the right man to scupper Labour’s election campaign. The trouble with Austin and the BBC is that he has a less than unblemished record when it comes to fighting racism. To put it bluntly, his anti-racism is selective. Worse, is that he’s said nothing about Boris Johnson’s racism nor has he commented on Priti Patel and Jacob Rees Mogg’s dog-whistle anti-Semitism. It’s as if, in his mind, those incidents never happened. For, if you were to believe him and the media, Labour is the single biggest reservoir of racism in the country. But it’s not any old racism we’re talking about here: it’s manufactured and weak allegations of anti-Semitism, which are treated with a greater degree of seriousness than other forms of racism and even actual incidents of anti-Semitism themselves.
Austin has previous form when it comes to racism and xenophobia. In 2013, he was forced to apologise for labelling a Palestinian human rights group ‘anti-Semitic’ and Holocaust deniers. When he was a minister under Gordon Brown, he was a vocal critic of ‘asylum seekers’ who are, by and large, people of colour. Indeed, in 2016, Birmingham Live, a local news site, carried a story in which Austin claimed, without any evidence, that there were “too many asylum seekers in the Black Country”. The site reported:
Rich and posh southerners have refused to take in asylum seekers – while Birmingham and the Black Country are taking in more than their fair share, an MP has claimed.
Black Country MP Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North) told MPs that too many asylum seekers had been housed in the Midlands and North, and this could lead to worse public services including schools and hospitals.
And he insisted the Government must “learn from the mistakes they made in the past” when providing homes for new asylum seekers – including the 20,000 Syrian refugees whom David Cameron has announced the UK will take in.
Today, while touring the nation’s radio and television studios, Austin urged voters to support Boris Johnson. Leaving aside the fact that we don’t vote directly for Prime Ministers, Austin’s entreaty to the nation’s listeners and viewers smacked, not only of gross hypocrisy, but of tacit support for the Tories’ racist policies.
Austin was elected as Labour MP for Dudley South in 2005 and was elevated to the position of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Gordon Brown two years later. I’ve documented Brown’s selective anti-racism here. Remember, it was Brown who uttered the infamous phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ Brown also demanded that the county became more patriotic, citing the United States as an example. In so doing, he encouraged the forces unleashed by Nu Labour’s 2005 general election campaign, in which the party sought to raise the stakes by producing anti-immigration rhetoric of its own in response to Michael Howard’s xenophobic and racist dog-whistling.
Austin may be the adopted son of British Jews, but I would argue that he uses it to shield to deflect criticism for his rampant xenophobia and his casual acceptance of other forms of racism, particularly from the Tory benches. In fact, if you’re Jewish and you disagree with Austin, you can expect to be abused, as Michael Rosen has found out not once, but twice.
Here’s a video clip which shows the exchange between bully boy Austin and Rosen. Austin looks and sounds thuggish.
In July, he was appointed as trade envoy to Israel by outgoing PM, Theresa May. If the Tories form the next government, then he will no doubt stay in that role.
A liar, a bully and a selective anti-racist, Ian Austin is nothing less than a fraud, who would happily sell out other minorities and those he deems to be the “wrong sort of Jew”.
Instead of asking serious questions of Austin’s motives and of his flaky anti-racism, the media treats him seriously, even deferentially. He’s no friend to people of colour. In fact, Twitter advanced search reveals that Austin hasn’t once tweeted about either Windrush or Hostile Environment. Now what does that tell you?