A FORMER Labour minister has announced that he is quitting parliament and urged voters to back the Tories to prevent a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North, said he would not contest the seat as an independent because he feared that doing so would take votes away from the Conservatives and help Labour into power.

He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government from 2009 to 2010, under Gordon Brown.

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Mr Austin, an MP since 2005, quit the Labour party in February saying he had been "ashamed" of the party under Mr Corbyn.

Confirming his decision to step down today, Mr Austin said: “The Labour Party has been poisoned by racism, extremism and intolerance under Corbyn’s leadership,” the 54-year-old said.

“I only ever wanted to be the Labour MP for Dudley, but I always tell local people the truth and could never ask them to make him Prime Minister.”

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It comes after Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson announced that he was quitting parliament.

Mr Austin won a majority of just 22 in 2017. 

The Dudley North seat has also been identified as a key target for the Tories after a majority of residents in the seat voted Leave in the EU referendum.

Sharing articles in the Times and the Mirror in which he called Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “completely unfit” to be prime minister, he described his decision to step down and advise people to vote Conservative as “very difficult”. 

Trade Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “Ian Austin, ex Labour MP on (BBC Radio 4’s Today programme) saying Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be Prime Minister and that people should vote for (Boris Johnson).

“People who know Corbyn are very worried about what he would do to our country.”

Responding to Ian Austin calling for voters to back Boris Johnson over his former leader Jeremy Corbyn, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak said: “This is a truly devastating indictment of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

“Ian Austin has been a Labour MP for 14 years so he knows Corbyn better than most.

“He says that a vote for Corbyn’s Labour would put businesses and jobs at risk, that Corbyn’s economic policies would make our country worse and that his ideas on Brexit are a complete fantasy.

“This comes straight after the party’s second most powerful person quit because he could no longer support Corbyn, in another hammer blow to his authority.

“Corbyn’s MPs are saying what we all know – he is unfit to be prime minister.”