Labour sacks frontbencher Sam Tarry after he defies picket line ban

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Labour has sacked shadow frontbencher Sam Tarry after he defied Sir Keir Starmer’s ban on joining picket lines in support of striking rail workers.

The party said Mr Tarry, the shadow transport minister, had been “removed from the frontbench”, saying it took seriously “any breach of collective responsibility”.

Mr Tarry stood alongside striking workers at London’s Euston station on Wednesday morning, despite Sir Keir’s orders to stay away from the demonstrations.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.

“This isn’t about appearing on a picket line.

“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.”

In a statement, Mr Tarry said it has been a “privilege” to serve on Labour’s top team.

“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,” he added.

Rail passengers were suffering fresh travel chaos on Wednesday after thousands of workers walked out on strike, crippling services across the country.

Industrial action over the summer has proved thorny for the Labour Party, with Sir Keir insisting the Opposition has to “get in the mindset of being in government”, while members of his own frontbench have publicly backed the strikes.

He previously told Beth Rigby Interviews on Sky News: “If you’re in government, this was what I said to my shadow cabinet when we had the discussion… and you’re around the Cabinet table, then you have to resolve these issues, you have to make sure that the negotiations complete successfully.

“You can’t have a Cabinet meeting and then go out onto the picket line.”

Sir Keir said on Tuesday he would again tell his frontbench MPs not to join striking workers in the latest action.

Ruth Jones, a shadow environment minister, took to Twitter on Wednesday to express her solidarity with the picketers, as did Kate Osborne, a parliamentary aide to shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle.

Earlier, 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.”

Mr Tarry told Sky News he was “not defying anybody”, but was 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”.

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.

Prior to the announcement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps predicted that Sir Keir would 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 the PA news agency 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.”

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