Chilcot report: Labour MP Ian Austin accused of being 'unpleasant bully' after heckling Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament

Labour leader called the Iraq War 'an act of military aggression, launched on a false pretext'

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 07 July 2016 19:56
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Corbyn on Chilcot Inquiry

A Labour MP who told Jeremy Corbyn to “sit down and shut up” as he spoke about the Iraq War in the House of Commons has been accused of “thuggish” behaviour.

Ian Austin heckled the Labour leader during his speech following the publication of the Chilcot report during which he apologised on behalf of the party for taking Britain to war.

Mr Corbyn called the war an “act of military aggression, launched on a false pretext” and said the subsequent “colonial-style occupation” led to the rise of Isis.

But Mr Austin told Mr Corbyn to “shut up” and shouted “you’re a disgrace” until the Speaker, John Bercow, intervened.

Gavin Newlands, the Scottish Nationalist MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire, tweeted it was a “typically pathetic and thuggish heckle” during what he called “Corbyn’s fantastic dissection of Blair’s lies and deceit”.

Former Channel 4 Economics Editor Paul Mason called Mr Austin a “warmonger” and noted he had opposed the setting up of an inquiry into the war.

Mr Austin actually voted against the inquiry the first time eight times the subject came before the Commons but eventually voted in favour of the Chilcot inquiry set up by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June 2009 along with the majority of Labour MPs, according to TheyWorkForYou. He was not an MP in 2003.

Columnist Owen Jones also waded into the argument calling Mr Austin an “astonishingly unpleasant person” and “a bully”.

He later asked his Twitter followers to stop sending abuse Mr Austin, saying his “calling out Ian Austin’s unpleasant behaviour isn’t an excuse for people to be abusive to him”.

Other Twitter users accused Mr Austin of being “rude”:

Mr Austin, a former key supporter of Mr Brown, has heavily criticised Mr Corbyn in the past.

In an article for The Times commenting on the furore, he said: “The Chilcot Report will never settle arguments about whether the war was right or wrong, but it should lay to rest allegations about bad faith, lies or deceit."

He said there was “no justification for saying evidence was ‘confected’” as he said Mr Corbyn had suggested in the Commons.

“To listen to Tony Blair’s critics, you would think that Iraq had been a peaceful haven of tranquillity before 2003. Nothing could be further from the truth," he continued.

“Of course we must learn the lessons of mistakes made after the invasion of Iraq, but we must also learn the lessons of not taking action too.”

He concluded: “Thirty years in protest movements and meetings where everyone agrees with him mean Jeremy has never had to think about complex problems and difficult solutions, which is why he is struggling to lead a mainstream political party, let alone persuade people to see him as their prime minister.

The Independent has sought to contact Mr Austin for comment.

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