Ian Austin is the Brownite of Brownites – an adviser to Brown when he was Chancellor; Brown’s PPS, once he had entered the Commons; later made a Whip; duly promoted to the Ministerial ranks; a nominator of Ed Balls for the Party leadership.
His departure from Labour is thus a reminder that it’s not just Blairites who detest Jeremy Corbyn. Austin is also militantly pro-Israel – and an excoriating critic of Jeremy Corbyn on the subject of anti-semitism. He was investigated by the party after a toxic clash over the matter with Ian Lavery. So this is an exit that has been coming.
There was always a streak of Euroscepticism among the Brownites – their hero worked as Chancellor, after all, to keep us out of the Euro – and Austin displays it. He also hails from Leave country. Sixty-eight per cent of his local authority area voted for Brexit.
So he won’t be joining the pro-Second Referendum partisans in the Independent Group. But he does boost the number of independents as a whole to 20. Add a splash of Labour MPs who won’t necessarily vote with their party over leaving the EU, and Downing Street now has a pool of roughly 35 opposition MPs to appeal to, if and when her deal comes back to the Commons.