Unions go to war with Labour over strike-linked sacking of Angela Rayner’s boyfriend

Unions go to war with Labour over sacking of Angela Rayner’s boyfriend: Bosses warn they could cut funding as Keir Starmer fires frontbencher Sam Tarry for joining strikes causing misery for millions

  • Sam Tarry was fired as shadow transport minister after attending strike picket
  • Ilford South MP is the partner of the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner
  • Union leaders and some MPs hit the roof, accusing Keir of abandoning workers

Labour is embroiled in a bitter row with unions today over Keir Starmer‘s sacking of a leftwing MP who attended a rail strike picket line.

Sam Tarry, the partner of the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, was fired as a shadow transport minister last night for a ‘breach of collective responsibility’ after he joined workers in London.

The Ilford South MP turned up at London’s Euston station ‘in solidarity’ with the 40,000 RMT members who caused chaos for millions yesterday by shutting down at least half of Britain’s rail network.

Sir Keir has previously warned that to appear suitable to form a government senior MPs should distance themselves from protests, while supporting the right to strike.

It comes amid union plans for a summer of discontent that will see trains halted repeatedly over the coming months. 

The part last night said that Tarry was not sacked for attending but for breaking party discipline and failing to tell superiors of his plans.

But union leaders and some backbench Labour MPs hit the roof, accusing Sir Keir of abandoning workers.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) general secretary Manuel Cortes, RMT boss Mick Lynch and Unite general secretary Sharon Graham criticised the sacking, with the latter branding it a ‘juvenile attack’.

Meanwhile, former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott  – now a Labour peer – tweeted a photo of himself addressing striking miners when he was shadow transport secretary in 1984 in apparent support of Mr Tarry.

Sam Tarry, the partner of the party's deputy leader Angela Rayner, was fired as a shadow transport minister last night for a 'breach of collective responsibility' after he joined workers in London.

Sam Tarry, the partner of the party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, was fired as a shadow transport minister last night for a ‘breach of collective responsibility’ after he joined workers in London.

The Ilford South MP turned up at London's Euston station 'in solidarity' with the 40,000 RMT members who caused chaos for millions yesterday by shutting down at least half of Britain's rail network today.

The Ilford South MP turned up at London’s Euston station ‘in solidarity’ with the 40,000 RMT members who caused chaos for millions yesterday by shutting down at least half of Britain’s rail network today.

Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott - now a Labour peer - tweeted a photo of himself addressing striking miners when he was shadow transport secretary in 1984 in apparent support of Mr Tarry.

Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott – now a Labour peer – tweeted a photo of himself addressing striking miners when he was shadow transport secretary in 1984 in apparent support of Mr Tarry.

MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, called for the Labour leader to visit picket lines last night – which he did not do – while GMB general secretary Gary Smith said it was a ‘huge own goal’ for Labour to ‘turn a Tory Transport crisis into a Labour story’.

Mr Tarry said he was ‘proud’ to stand with striking rail workers. In a statement he said: ‘This dispute would not be taking place under a Labour government, which would ensure that rail workers receive a fair wage.

‘It has been a privilege to serve on Labour’s frontbench for the past two years and to have had the opportunity to speak up for hard-pressed workers who deserve so much better than the treatment they’ve received from this corrupt and out-of-touch Government.

‘I remain committed to supporting the striking rail workers, and campaigning for a Labour victory at the next general election, which I will fight for relentlessly from the backbenches.’

A number of backbench Labour MPs also joined picket lines, including Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, Brent Central MP Dawn Butler, Birmingham Hall Green MP Tahir Ali, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck. 

Some hard Left Labour MPs also jumped to his defence. Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, tweeted: ‘Solidarity to Sam Tarry. Supporting workers at RMT and all other workers in dispute is in the best traditions of what Labour was founded for and should stand for. The sacking is quite frankly shameful.’

Kate Osamor, MP for Edmonton, added: ‘Solidarity Sam Tarry. The Labour Party exists to fight for ordinary people. We must never lose sight of that.’

Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles, said: ‘Solidarity supporting workers as they fight for their jobs, pay and conditions is exactly what Labour is supposed to do. 

‘Trade unions formed to become the political voice of workers and to fight for a decent standard of life for all.’

Mr Tarry is a former TSSA union official. He is in a relationship with Ms Rayner, 41, having become close to after he ran her campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader. 

She separated from her husband Mark in 2020 and Mr Tarry, a father of two, has also parted from his wife. 

Mr Tarry faces a battle to hold on to his London seat after local party members voted to hold an open reselection process ahead of the next general election, meaning a different candidate could be chosen to fight it. 

Ilford South is one of the safest Labour seats in the country and he has a 24,000 vote majority. 

But sources told the Guardian yesterday that cosying up to union bosses could help Tarry win selection for a seat elsewhere, in a constituency the left of the party has more control over.

Ms Graham, who took over the superunion Unite last year, said: 'Juvenile attacks on trade unionists will do absolutely nothing to further Labour's prospects for power.'

Ms Graham, who took over the superunion Unite last year, said: ‘Juvenile attacks on trade unionists will do absolutely nothing to further Labour’s prospects for power.’

Ms Graham, who took over the superunion Unite last year, said: ‘The Labour sacking of Sam Tarry for supporting working people on strike, against cuts to their jobs and pay, is another insult to the trade union movement. Quite frankly, it would be laughable if it were not so serious.

‘At a time when people are facing a cost of living crisis, and on the day when the Conservative Government has launched a new wave of attacks on the rights of working people, the Labour Party has opted to continue to indulge in old factional wars.

‘Labour is becoming more and more irrelevant to ordinary working people who are suffering. Juvenile attacks on trade unionists will do absolutely nothing to further Labour’s prospects for power.’

But a party spokeswoman said: ‘Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. 

‘That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions. 

‘As a government-in-waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons Sam Tarry has been removed from the frontbench.’

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