Labour frontbencher defies Starmer’s order to stay away from picket lines

Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry stood alongside striking workers at London’s Euston station on Wednesday morning.

27 July 2022

A Labour frontbencher has defied Sir Keir Starmer’s ban on joining the picket line in support of striking rail workers.

The Labour leader had again ordered his MPs to stay away, after failing to prevent some from joining the protests earlier this summer.

Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry stood alongside striking workers at London’s Euston station on Wednesday morning.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If we don’t make a stand today, people’s lives could be lost.

“Some of the lowest-paid workers are on strike today in the rail industry, safety-critical workers, workers who make sure our railways get people to work and do so safely.

“It can’t be accepted anymore that people just have to accept that inflation is out of control. The Government’s doing nothing on the cost-of-living crisis.”

Asked whether he expects to be sacked by Sir Keir, Mr Tarry said: “I’ve no idea what Keir will decide to do but I know this – if Keir was in government right now, this dispute wouldn’t be happening.”

He added: “I have absolutely 100% confidence that any Labour Party MP would be in support of striking workers who have given up a day’s pay, a week’s pay or even longer.”

Mr Tarry also told Sky News that he was “not defying anybody”, but was supporting “40,000 low-paid transport workers”.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said it is up to the whips to decide whether Mr Tarry loses his job for insubordination.

Asked what Sir Keir should do about his minister defying his orders, Ms Dodds told Sky News: “Ultimately, as I said, it’s a decision for that individual, but I’m sure that the whips will be looking at this in terms of it being a disciplinary matter.

“But, quite frankly, for me, the big issue here is why, in England, we’ve got people’s transport being disrupted so substantially with industrial action.”

She accused the Government of “increasing division, not sitting down with the unions, with the employees getting a resolution.”

Sir Keir again told Labour MPs not to join striking workers outside railway stations, after several defied his orders during June’s industrial action.

The Labour leader said on Tuesday: “The Labour Party in opposition needs to be the Labour Party in power.

“And a government doesn’t go on picket lines, a government tries to resolve disputes.”

The Conservatives have sought to use the row to claim Labour is on the side of the striking workers, who have caused chaos for millions of commuters, and the Opposition leader will be reluctant to give the Government any more ammunition for that attack.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps predicted that Sir Keir will sack Mr Tarry.

He told Sky News: “It’s clearly in direct defiance of Sir Keir Starmer, who told his front bench that they shouldn’t be (on picket lines).

“No doubt he’ll want to remove him from his job.”

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