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Backlash after senior Labour figure attacks strikes and big pay claims

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A senior Labour figure has toughened the party’s stance ahead of a “summer of discontent” over falling pay by saying he does not “support strikes” – triggering a backlash.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said he “categorically” does not support a walkout by BA check-in staff, dismissing their call for a 10 per cent pay increase.

Calling it “very sad when any union calls its members out”, Mr Lammy also said: “I don’t support strikes,” before adding: “I support the right to strike of course.”

The stance was criticised by John McDonnell, Labour’s former shadow chancellor, who said striking rail workers were right to seek “protection against the cost of living”.

The chair of Young Labour, Jess Barnard, attacked the party leadership for “sending out its senior politicians to attack 50 of its own MPs and thousands of workers on national television”.

Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, also said: “Supporting bad bosses is a new low for Labour. It is now down to the trade unions to defend working people. We are their only voice.”

Earlier, the respected backbencher Jon Cruddas, an adviser to Tony Blair on unions, said Labour must back families facing a historic slump in their incomes.

“The rail strikes are arguably the canary down the coalmine. You cannot dodge this. Labour has to be supportive of those seeking to defend their living standards,” Mr Cruddas said.

Mr Lammy said the party’s chief whip would speak to frontbenchers who defied Keir Starmer by joining RMT picket lines – and hinted the order will be repeated for future strikes.

He acknowledged “further disputes” are likely – with teachers, NHS staff and legal aid solicitors all contemplating strike action – and warned the rebels: “I don’t think it’s helpful to stand on picket lines.”

Last week, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, defied Sir Keir by backing the rail workers’ decision to strike, saying they “have been left with no choice”.

But Mr Lammy denied his leader had “lost control of his own MPs”, after up to 50 backed the strikers, adding: “The Labour party is not divided.”

In the BA strike, unions are seeking to reverse a 10 per cent pay cut imposed on workers during the pandemic when global lockdowns grounded flights – not a pay rise.

On the rail strikes, the shadow foreign secretary, told Times Radio: “It hurts working people who need to get to work by using the railway. And of course, those within the union are hurt as well.

“So I absolutely support the right to strike, but I’m very sad that it’s reached this stage and it’s reached this stage because the government’s not showing leadership.”

Mr McDonnell told the same programme: “I heard David. Like a lot of people in the labour and trade union movement, I was pretty disappointed.

“On all of these occasions, you have to do what you think is right. And, on the RMT dispute. I just think I can’t see how people can’t see this as a just cause.”

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