LONDON: A ninth lawmaker quit Britain's main opposition Labour Party on Friday (Feb 22), blaming leader Jeremy Corbyn's handling of accusations of anti-Semitism within its ranks.
Ian Austin's resignation adds to a mounting rebellion against Corbyn after the defections earlier this week of eight Labour MPs over the issues of anti-Semitism and Brexit.
Austin said he was "appalled at the offence and distress Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have caused to Jewish people" and that he had become "ashamed" of its conduct under the left-wing opposition leader.
"It is terrible that a culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people who have committed their life to mainstream politics," he told the Express & Star, his constituency's local newspaper.
"The hard left is now in charge of the party, they're going to get rid of lots of decent mainstream MPs and I just can't see how it can return to the mainstream party that won elections and changed the country for the better."
Earlier this week eight Labour MPs, and then three from the governing Conservative party, formed a new centrist block in parliament, in the biggest split in British politics since 1981.
The Conservative rebels cited opposition to what they see as their party's increasingly hardline euroscepticism for their departures, while the Labour lawmakers blamed quitting on both its Brexit policy and its anti-Semitism issues.
They now sit in the House of Commons as an independent group and have signalled plans for a new centre-ground party.
However Austin, an MP since 2005 who has said Britain's 2016 EU referendum result should be honoured, indicated that he would not be joining the new faction imminently.
Britain's two main parties are badly divided over Brexit and the tensions have come to a head as the Mar 29 deadline for the country's departure from the bloc looms.
Labour has been plagued by claims of anti-Semitism ever since Corbyn, a lifelong eurosceptic and supporter of anti-Israel groups, became its leader in 2015.