Labour MP's calls for general strike branded a 'disaster'

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<em>Conference – Laura Smith made her comments at a socialists’ fringe event at the Labour Party Conference (Picture: PA)</em>
Conference – Laura Smith made her comments at a socialists’ fringe event at the Labour Party Conference (Picture: PA)

A Labour MP’s calls for a general strike have been branded a disaster, as the party emphasised that her suggestion is not Labour policy.

Laura Smith called for a general strike to be held in a bid to topple the Government if Theresa May avoids having to call a General Election.

Her suggestion for a nationwide workers’ walkout, made at a socialists’ event on the fringe of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, earned the Crewe and Nantwich MP a standing ovation.

But since then she has faced a backlash from other key party figures, with deputy leader Tom Watson reportedly pointing out that the last general strike in 1926 was a ‘disaster for the working class’.

Mr Watson also told the BBC he thought Ms Smith “got a little bit carried away”, while shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said her calls were not party policy.

Former teacher Ms Smith, who is a member of the Unite and Unison unions, raised suggestion of a general strike at The World Transformed festival on Tuesday night.

She said: “Comrades, we must topple this cruel and callous Tory Government as soon as we can. And if we can’t get a general election, we should organise with our brothers and sisters in the trade unions to bring an end to this government with a general strike.”

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After the crowd rose to their feet in applause, she said: “That went better than I thought it would’ve gone.”

The last general strike, co-ordinated by the Trades Union Congress took place in support of coal miners in 1926 and lasted eight days. A general strike today would need the major unions to take cooperative action in organising a mass walkout.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his top team have focused on their intent to secure a general election throughout the conference, which has been dominated by Brexit and the issue of a second referendum.

Asked about Ms Smith’s calls, Deputy Leader Tom Watson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, it’s not particularly helpful, but she is a new MP and she was at a big fringe event – nothing to do with the party organisation – and I’m sure she got a little bit carried away.”

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told the programme: “Well that’s not our position. Laura is an absolutely amazing MP, she’s one of the North West MPs with myself, she’s so full of energy and enthusiasm, but we’re certainly not advocating general strikes as Labour Party policy.”

She added: “Just to make it perfectly clear a general strike is not Labour Party policy.”

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