POLITICS
26/09/2018 08:24 BST | Updated 26/09/2018 15:57 BST

Labour MP Laura Smith Calls For First General Strike Since 1926 To Bring Down The Government

'We must topple this cruel and callous Tory government as soon as we can.'

A Labour MP has issued calls for the first general strike in more than 90 years in a bid to bring down the Conservative government.

Speaking at Momentum’s World Transformed festival - which is running alongside Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool - Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith told crowds that the party “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,” she said.

The call prompted a standing ovation from the cheering audience - including shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, who was also on stage.

“That went better than I thought it could have gone,” Smith admitted as onlookers at the event continued to applaud.

Britain has not seen a general strike - in which workers from across different industries down tools to support a cause - since 1926, when more than 1.5 million people went on strike in solidarity with coal miners, who were in a dispute with mine owners over wages.

But while Smith - who was elected to her seat in 2017 with a majority of 48 votes - received a rapturous reception from those assembled at the festival on Tuesday night, her idea was met with less support from Labour’s shadow business secretary.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Rebecca Long-Bailey - who had been at the event but left before Smith’s speech - insisted that a general strike was not Labour Party policy.

OLI SCARFF via Getty Images
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey insisted that general strikes are not Labour Party policy 

“That’s not our position,” she said. “Laura is an absolutely amazing MP - she’s one of the north-west MPs with me and she’s so full of energy and enthusiasm.

“But we’re certainly not advocating general strikes as Labour Party policy.”

Asked about Burgon’s reaction to the speech after he was seen on his feet clapping, Long-Bailey replied that it was a “really energetic event and there was a lot of excitement about a future under a Jeremy-Corbyn-led  government”.

“Saying that,” she added, “I suspect all speakers got a standing ovation.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson dubbed Smith’s comments “not particularly helpful”, adding that he was sure “she didn’t mean it in those terms”. 

“I’m sure she got a little bit carried away with herself,” Watson continued, calling the 1926 general strike an “absolute failure for the working class”, with the Prime Minister at the time remaining in power. 

Smith’s controversial statement comes ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech on Wednesday afternoon, in which he will vow to replace “greed-is-good” capitalism with a green jobs revolution

The Labour leader is set to unveil a pledge to create 400,000 skilled jobs by building thousands more wind turbines, insulating millions of homes – and installing a solar panel on every roof in the UK.