Keir Starmer facing pro-union push from Labour’s Left

·2 min read
Sir Keir Starmer - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Sir Keir Starmer - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Sir Keir Starmer faces a Left-wing push led by a sacked former shadow minister that could force him to allow his frontbenchers to join the picket line.

Sam Tarry, dismissed by the Labour leader for joining striking rail workers last month, will launch a push by socialist group Momentum to change several Labour policies on industrial action.

Sam Tarry at a picket line - Maighna Nanu/PA
Sam Tarry at a picket line - Maighna Nanu/PA

During the RMT walkouts last month, Sir Keir said he supported strikers’ “right to do so”, but stopped short of backing the strikes.

A motion to be put before the party’s annual conference in Liverpool next month will propose four key changes to his current stance.

Labour frontbenchers and MPs will be urged to “show solidarity with striking workers by attending picket lines and vocally supporting strikes”.

It also calls on the party to support wage rises in line with and above inflation, commit to increasing taxes on corporate profits and campaign against anti-trade union laws.

‘What workers can expect of Labour’

The motion reads: “Conference believes that supporting workers on picket lines sends a strong message about what workers can expect of a future Labour government.

“Statements describing such support as ‘gesture politics’ are antithetical to the purpose of the Labour Party.”

If passed by delegates at the conference, it would pile pressure on Sir Keir to adopt the policy, undercutting his attempt to hold striking unions at arm’s length.

But there are several procedural hurdles that any motion has to go through before members vote on it, meaning Labour could try to water down its contents or thwart it altogether.

The issue continues to split Labour as further industrial action takes place across a number of sectors.

Momentum ‘looking to apply pressure’

A Momentum source said the group was “definitely looking to apply some pressure” and confirmed it would lobby MPs individually to support the motion.

Mr Tarry was sacked as a shadow transport minister on July 27 for joining a picket line at Euston station and giving a round of media interviews deviating from party policy.

He said: “As workers strike to protect themselves and their families from soaring prices while chief executives rake in huge bonuses, Labour has a huge chance to show it’s on the side of working people.

“But by firing shadow ministers like myself for standing on picket lines, Keir Starmer is in danger of driving a wedge between Labour and the millions of working people desperate for real relief in this escalating cost of living crisis.”

Three other members of the Labour frontbench defied Sir Keir earlier this month during the BT and Openreach strikes, including Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary.