The Ian Austin row shows that for Corbynsceptics, the only way is exit

Corbynsceptics have a leader they don’t like, and cannot change.

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Labour MPs are furious at the news that Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley North, is the subject of disciplinary action after confronting Ian Lavery, the party’s chair and the MP for Wansbeck, over the decision not to incorporate the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct.

The row outlines the dilemma facing the party’s Corbynsceptic MPs.Corbynsceptic MPs recognize that if you tell another member of Parliament in your own party, that they are a “fucking bastard” and “wanker”, then you can reasonably expect to be the subject of disciplinary action. But they also believe that the party leadership is on the wrong side of the IHRA question and they primarily view the debate as a moral, not a political one.

But that puts Corbynsceptic MPs in an impossible and farcical position: on the one hand they think that it is fair comment that Lavery is acting like a “fucking bastard” on the issue and that Margaret Hodge was quite right to call Jeremy Corbyn a “racist and antisemite”. But they want to remain within the party despite believing that and despite the fact that it looks increasingly unlikely that the leadership will back down on the issue. They have no ability to do anything about it within their party rulebook and the blunt truth is that the last meaningful choice any Labour MP made was in June 2015, when 23 of their number opted to lend their nominations to Jeremy Corbyn.  They have no guarantee that they will survive politically if they break away from the Labour party and no guarantee that they will survive politically if they stay inside it.

They have no good options – but if bending the knee to the party leadership is unpalatable to them, splitting may well be their only option.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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