Keir Starmer can’t decide on punishing his pickets: As Labour leader goes into hiding again, SIXTEEN of his MPs defy him to pose with strikers
- 16 Labour MPs defied Starmer’s instructions to not join the picket lines
- He has been told that sacking the rebels would ‘end’ the Labour Party
- Party divisions over strikes come as Starmer faces the decision on Beergate
The Labour leader remained silent again as the militant RMT union staged a second day of damaging walkouts.
But the party’s divisions over the strike deepened as a string of Labour MPs again defied him to join picket lines across the country as their constituents battled to get to work.
The Labour leader remained silent again as the militant RMT union staged a second day of damaging walkouts
Commuters endured an even worse day than Tuesday, as train and bus drivers walked out at the same time as rail workers.
Around 40,000 workers from the militant RMT union went on strike again yesterday, paralysing the rail network. But they were joined by more than 600 train drivers from operator Greater Anglia and hundreds of bus workers in Yorkshire.
It meant Greater Anglia was barely able to operate 10 per cent of services across the East of England yesterday. Many of its trains are used by commuters into the capital. Holidaymakers trying to reach Stansted and Southend airports were also hit.
Train drivers’ union Aslef ordered the walkout despite its members already enjoying average annual salaries of around £59,000. It is threatening more walkouts to coincide with RMT strikes later this summer.
Commuter Molly Williams at Manchester Piccadilly, forced to use a replacement bus, said: ‘I know the strikers want more money, but who doesn’t?’
Tim, stuck at Euston, was asked by GB News if he supported the strikers. He said: ‘Not really.
‘I guess the guys have got good pensions, good holidays and good pay.’
The RAC reported a spike in breakdowns as more took the roads – while businesses around stations struggled as customer numbers fell to pandemic levels.
Yesterday union leaders reacted furiously to a threat from the Labour leader’s office to discipline party frontbenchers who join the RMT pickets.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, described the move as a ‘bloody disgrace’. Mr Whelan, who is in charge of liaison between Labour and its 12 affiliated unions, said the move ‘may end’ the party if frontbenchers are sacked for joining picket lines.
Mark Serwotka, general-secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, accused Sir Keir of a ‘catastrophic misjudgement’, adding: ‘Threatening his colleagues with potential disciplinary action for standing on a picket line – something they should be proud of – tells me that he’s really lost his bearings.’
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, told LBC Radio that the threat to MPs was a ‘miscalculation’, saying Sir Keir was guilty of an ‘error of judgement not to be more supportive of working people’.
In a further sign of tension, it emerged last night that Sir Keir will snub the Durham Miners’ Gala next month.
The annual celebration of trade unionism has been a diary fixture for Labour leaders, but Sir Keir is understood to have turned down an invitation because of a clash with a longstanding family event.
Labour frontbenchers were warned by the leader’s office on Monday not to join picket lines.
At least five have ignored the warning so far, including shadow minister Alex Sobel and party whip Navendu Mishra.
But, faced with the anger of the trade unions, who remain the party’s biggest donors, Sir Keir was still dithering today over whether or not to follow through on his threat. One Labour source said the MPs had been told to issue public apologies but had so far refused.
His deputy Angela Rayner said the RMT militants had been ‘left with no choice’ but to inflict chaos on commuters
While Sir Keir has tried to sit on the fence because of fears he could alienate the travelling public, other senior Labour figures have had no hesitation in backing the strikes.
His deputy Angela Rayner said the RMT militants had been ‘left with no choice’ but to inflict chaos on commuters. Labour’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar joined a picket line in Edinburgh to show ‘solidarity’ with the strikers.
Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry said the RMT’s demands were ‘legitimate’, adding that there was ‘nothing militant about standing up for your workers’.
Meanwhile, at least 16 Labour MPs yesterday joined picket lines across the country. While most were among the 25 who took a stand on Tuesday, several MPs backed the strike for the first time.
Karl Turner, Labour’s former shadow attorney general, joined the picket line, saying he was proud to ‘stand in full solidarity’ with rail workers inconveniencing his constituents in Hull. Others attending for the first time included Hull West MP Emma Hardy, Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake, Jeremy Corbyn’s former campaign chief Jon Trickett and City of Durham MP Mary Foy.
MPs making a second appearance on the picket line included former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon and the former Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery.