Labour frontbenchers defy Starmer’s order to stay away from picket lines

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

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

Sir Keir now faces a dilemma over whether to fire the rebels, including shadow transport minister Sam Tarry, who stood alongside striking workers at London’s Euston station on Wednesday morning.

Mr Tarry 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”.

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.

“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 told Sky News he is “not defying anybody”, but is supporting “40,000 low-paid transport workers”.

He later tweeted a photo that said he was “on the side of the members not the establishment”.

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 instructions, 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”.

Shadow ministers who attended picket lines during the last strike in June received a warning but avoided the sack.

One of them was Kate Osborne, a parliamentary aide to shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, who defied party policy on Wednesday.

The Jarrow MP tweeted a photo of herself with members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association.

Ruth Jones, a shadow environment minister, also took to Twitter to express her solidarity with the picketers.

It came a day after Sir Keir said he would again tell his frontbench MPs not to join striking workers in the latest action.

The Labour leader said: “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.

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

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

A number of backbench Labour MPs also joined picket lines, including Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne.

He told the PA news agency: “What I’m seeing across the city is people absolutely struggling in the public and private sector.

“Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation and it is really, really worrying.

“It’s massively important for me to be here. I’ve been a trade unionist all my life and I will always back workers.”

Brent Central MP Dawn Butler, Birmingham Hall Green MP Tahir Ali, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck were among those sharing photos of themselves on social media from picket lines.

Jeremy Corbyn, the former party leader and now independent MP, told PA outside Euston station: “There are three Labour MPs here on this picket line, and no doubt there are all over the country.

“I think Members of Parliament represent their constituencies and hear day to day what their constituents want, and they’re doing the right thing by being there with the workers in dispute.”

Labour has been contacted for comment.

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