Labour's Rail Row Deepens After David Lammy Says He Doesn't Support Strikes

“This is not a moment for posturing and standing on picket lines,” the shadow foreign secretary said.
Lammy and McDonnell
Lammy and McDonnell
Getty

Labour’s row over rail action deepened today after David Lammy said he did not support the strikes

The shadow foreign secretary struck the most hardline stance from a Labour MP yet by condemning the strikes.

The MP for Tottenham said he did not support them because they “hurt” working people.

It comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer asked shadow cabinet members and their teams not to join the pro-strike demonstrations.

However, a number of Labour frontbenchers defied him to appear alongside striking railway workers on picket lines.

Lammy told Times Radio: “No, I don’t support strikes because, I support the right to strike of course, but it’s very sad when any union calls its members out on strike.

“This is not a moment for posturing and standing on picket lines.”

- David Lammy

“It hurts working people who need to get to work by using the railway and, of course, those within the union are hurt as well.

“So I absolutely support the right to strike. But I’m very sad that it’s reached this stage and it’s reached this stage because the government’s not showing leadership.”

He said Labour was the party of working people but they also want to be the “party of government”.

“We know that in government, we would be negotiating we would be leading we would be trying to reach a resolution to this dispute,” he added.

“So this is not a moment for posturing and standing on picket lines.”

However, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell hit back saying he was “pretty disappointed” by Lammy’s words.

The backbencher who served under Jeremy Corbyn said: “I heard David. I think like a lot of people in the Labour and trade union movement, I was pretty disappointed.”

He continued: “I can’t see how people can’t see this as a just cause that all RMT are asking for is protection against the cost of living for their members.”

He said Labour MPs should support working people in every means possible: “And that includes picket line attendance.”

Labour party sources suggested Lammy was freelancing with his comments on the strikes.

It comes as Labour faces pressure to back Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members whose industrial action last week crippled rail services.

On BBC News on Sunday Lammy said the RMT was not affiliated with Labour and added: “It’s also important to say that we’ve got to support working people wherever they are in the country, and that is obviously beyond RMT union members.”

During his media round, Lammy also said he “categorically” does not support a potential strike by BA check-in staff.

He said Labour continued to support negotiations and a deal when it comes to disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Asked if he would support BA staff in strike action, Lammy told BBC News on Sunday: “All of us are feeling the pinch with inflation.

“Many of us might want a (pay) rise of 10 per cent; in truth, most people understand it’s unlikely that you’re going to get that.

“It absolutely would not be right, it would not be responsible opposition, if I suggested yes to every strike.”

Pressed on whether he supports the proposed strike by check-in staff, he said: “No, I don’t. No I don’t – it is a no, it’s a categorical no.”

Asked why, he said: “Because I’m serious about the business of being in government and the business of being in government is that you support negotiation.”

Lammy also denied suggestions that Starmer had “lost control of his own MPs” after dozens joined RMT picket lines.

He added: “I suspect the chief whip will be speaking to them next week and making it very clear that a serious party of government does not join picket lines.”

The shadow cabinet minister said he had seen some photos of Labour MPs on picket lines, but added: “There’s no suggestion at all of dispute within the party.”

However, Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Dave Ward said “Labour have miscalculated” their approach to this summer’s strike action.

Ward told Sky News: “I think Labour have miscalculated, because I think they’re obsessed with reconnecting with working people, and the reason that people moved away from Labour was over Brexit.

“I don’t think people are going to turn their backs on working people who are facing these challenges because we’re all genuinely in that together. And I think Labour have miscalculated.

“It’s up to Keir Starmer what he does, but what we’re going to do is chat to working people across the UK, in communities coming together to really bring about serious change.”

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