SUELLA Braverman has defended former Dudley MP Lord Austin after he was suspended from his role as chairman of a housing association for a comment relating to the Israel-Gaza war.

Conservative former home secretary Ms Braverman was speaking in the Commons as MPs discussed antisemitism in the wake of a Community Security Trust (CST) report which found incidents in the UK reached an all-time high last year, with the majority recorded after Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7.

During her speech, she defended non-affiliated peer Lord Austin of Dudley after he was suspended from his role as chairman of Midland Heart housing association for reportedly referring to "a death cult of Islamist murderers and rapists" on social media.

Lord Austin, a former Labour MP who quit the party under Jeremy Corbyn over its handling of antisemitism, had been criticised over the comment which he said was aimed at Hamas.

Dudley News: Lord Austin pictured when he was a Labour MP in DudleyLord Austin pictured when he was a Labour MP in Dudley (Image: Newsquest)

He reportedly told The Telegraph: "The word Islamists is very clearly a reference not to Muslim people but to extremists."

Ms Braverman told the Commons: "The reality is that the Jewish community has been demonised and targeted, is scared, and has been let down by the authorities.

"The Jewish community needs its champions and friends to speak in its defence without fear or favour.

"Lord Ian Austin ... is one such courageous advocate who has campaigned for decades against antisemitism and Islamism.

"Does (the minister) share my deep concern about organisations like Midland Heart which has suspended Lord Ian Austin as its chair merely for his speaking against Islamism, against terrorism and against antisemitism."

Chris Philp, minister for policing, said: "In relation to Lord Austin, I do agree with what she said. I have read the tweets that he sent. And it strikes me there is nothing unreasonable about them.

"He was criticising Islamism, which is a form of extremism, that is not the same as the Muslim community more widely, obviously, as everybody knows.

"And I don't think the actions proposed by Midland Heart are in the slightest bit reasonable.

"And I join (Communities Secretary Michael Gove) in urging Midland Heart to urgently reconsider what they have done.

"Lord Austin is a tireless campaigner against racism, was a great servant of this House when he was here, and does not deserve the treatment that he has recently received."

Addressing the increase in recorded incidents of antisemitism, Mr Philp had earlier told the Commons: "The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that members of Britain's Jewish community are suffering a level of hatred and abuse which is frankly shameful."

He added: "The situation in the Middle East does not, and will never give anyone the right to harass or intimidate others."

He told MPs: "This Government will not stand for antisemitism of any kind, it is important to note that police have comprehensive powers to deal with abhorrent conduct of this nature."

He said the Government will "do whatever it takes to keep Britain's Jewish community safe", said the Government has "taken strong steps to confront the poison of antisemitism head on", and said they are working with the police to ensure offenders are "met with the full force of the law".

Mr Philp said: "I want to be clear, we are equally unwavering in our stance towards hatred and abuse directed at British Muslims."

"We are aware of an increased number of reports of anti-Muslim hatred as well", he said, describing it as "unacceptable", and saying additional funds have been made available to provide additional security measures.

Midland Heart said on social media last Wednesday: "We've been contacted today regarding a post made by our chair earlier this week. He has since clarified the points made in this tweet and deleted the post. We understand the strength of feeling on this issue and like everyone are deeply saddened by the human tragedy."

It then posted on Friday saying: "Lord Austin has been suspended from his duties at Midland Heart, a meeting has been arranged for 14 days time, in line with rules of the association, to discuss his removal from the board."