Labour’s deputy leader voices support as Keir Starmer is accused of ‘hiding’ from the dispute
Sir Keir Starmer is considering taking disciplinary action against several shadow cabinet members who defied an order not to join picket lines, while his deputy Angela Rayner said rail workers “have been left with no choice” but to strike.
It is understood that the Labour leader will wait until the industrial action is over before instructing chief whip Alan Campbell to deal with any disciplinary matters relating to the strikes.
A spokesperson said: “Unlike the government, our focus is firmly on the public.”
Ms Rayner tweeted: “No one takes strike action lightly. Workers have been left with no choice. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work. The PM needs to do his own job. His Government caused this. Now they must solve it.”
The comments come after Sir Keir faced a revolt over instructions given to frontbenchers not to join picket lines mounted by striking workers.
At least two Labour MPs defied the order, which said that the party should “show leadership” and step back from displaying support for the action being taken by the RMT union.
The memo read: “We have robust lines. We do not want to see these strikes go ahead with the resulting disruption to the public. The government have failed to engage in any negotiations.
“However, we also must show leadership and to that end, please be reminded that frontbenchers including [parliamentary private secretaries] should not be on picket lines.
“Please speak to all the members of your team to remind them of this and confirm with me that you have done so.”
“To instruct Labour MPs not to be on picket lines with workers speaks volumes. You don’t lead by hiding. No one respects that. It’s time to decide whose side you are on. Workers or bad bosses?”
Only 20 per cent of trains are understood to be running during the strike, which is set to be repeated on Thursday and Saturday.
Anas Sarwar, Labour’s leader in Scotland, also defied Sir Keir’s instructions as he joined a picket line with RMT workers.
“Solidarity with those on the picket lines,” Mr Sarwar tweeted, adding: “This is a crisis entirely of the Government’s making. The workers don’t want strikes. The unions don’t want strikes. The public don’t want strikes. They demand better.”
Earlier, Kate Osborne, a parliamentary aide to shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, joined striking workers in London, saying: “I’m a trade unionist, I will always stand on the side of the workers.”
And Navendu Mishra – an opposition whip – tweeted a photograph of himself alongside striking workers, saying: “This treacherous government has underfunded & mismanaged our public transport network for more than a decade.”
Manuel Cortes, head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, also criticised Labour’s official stance, saying: “This is ridiculous nonsense from the party which was created by trade unions. Solidarity is what our movement is all about.”