Alan Johnson Attacks 'Far-Left Sect' As He Defends Keir Starmer Over Picket Line Row

The former Labour minister and trade union boss said his party should be on the side of those affected by strikes.
Alan Johnson said
Alan Johnson said
Roberto Ricciuti via Getty Images

Alan Johnson has defended Keir Starmer’s decision to ban Labour frontbenchers from going on picket lines.

The former cabinet minister and trade union boss said the demonstrations by striking workers had become “a shrine” which only appealed to “a far-left sect”.

Starmer became embroiled in a bitter row after telling his shadow cabinet that they should not be seen on rail picket lines.

He was defied by several frontbenchers and ended up sacking shadow transport minister Sam Tarry after he joined striking workers at Euston Station in London.

But appearing on Sky News, Johnson - who was general secretary of the CWU union before becoming an MP - said: “99 per cent of Royal Mail workers will go nowhere near a picket line - they still support the strike, they’re on strike.

“Ninety-nine per cent of rail workers won’t go near a picket line. Why has the picket line suddenly become a shrine if you support a dispute or not?

“It’s there for a specific reason. And every Labour leader since Clem Attlee has said to their ministers ‘don’t go on a picket line’.”

He added: “If you’re part of a political sect, a far-left sect, it’s fine.

“If you want to be the party of government ,yes of course you support workers in the sense of trying to get them into a negotiated settlement, but you don’t stand against commuters and you don’t stand against people who are losing their postal services.

“You steer that middle course and that’s what Keir Starmer is trying to do.”

Johnson also hit out at Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who has accused Keir Starmer of failing to stick up for workers.

He said: "The head of Unite always finds a way to get a headline by attacking the Labour Party."


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