28 JULY 2022 | NEWS

Trade unions have condemned the leadership of the Labour Party after a junior Shadow Minister was relieved of his position after joining a picket line.

Sam Tarry, who is the MP for Ilford South and former junior Shadow Transport Minister, was removed from his role after he joined striking rail workers on a picket line in London. Transport workers took to London’s Euston Station to demand a fairer pay deal. Demonstrators were demanding pay rises amidst ongoing inflation and the cost-of-living crisis.

The Labour Party have stated that the reason for Mr Tarry’s dismissal was not due to his appearance on the picket line, but rather his participation in unauthorised media appearances.

The party said in a statement: “This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the front bench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed front-bench positions.

“As a government in waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons Sam Tarry has been removed from the front bench.”

The party also restated its support for the strikers and unionists, saying that Labour would “always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work”.

Mr Tarry responded to his dismissal by saying: “I’ll be supporting and campaigning for our Labour Party to get into Number 10 and I believe that that is possible.

“But I believe that is possible on the basis of real solidarity, and real solidarity means not turning our backs on people that created and made our party and make us strong on a daily basis.”

The full statement can be seen here:

The decision to sack Mr Tarry has caused a backlash amongst trade unionists, backbenchers and activists associated with the Labour Party.

The union Unite released a statement on their Twitter page addressing the sacking of Sam Tarry. In it, they accused the Labour Party of “juvenile attacks” on unionists. They said in their statement:

The statement thread continued: “At a time when people are facing a cost of living crisis and on the day when the Conservative Government has launched a new wave of attacks on the rights of working people, the Labour Party has opted to continue to indulge in old factional wars.

“Labour is becoming more and more irrelevant to ordinary working people who are suffering. Juvenile attacks on trade unionists will do absolutely nothing to further Labour’s prospects for power.”

Labour’s former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell also condemned the sacking of Mr Tarry, writing on Twitter: “Just at time Tories are tearing themselves apart someone advises Keir Starmer now is the time to cause division on our own side. It’s daft tactics. We need maximum solidarity in support of workers who are just asking for a wage rise that prevents a pay cut. It’s a just cause.”

Some Constituency Labour Parties have been voting on motions in support of reinstating Mr Tarry, with the Tottenham branch passing a motion that stated its members were “shocked and angered by the decision”. The motion added that “the Labour Party was created by the trade unions to provide a political voice for workers”, and included the view that “‘collective responsibility’ can in no way preclude Labour MPs from their primary duty of showing solidarity to working class people taking action in defence of their jobs, pay and conditions”.

The CLP’s motion, which is not binding upon party leadership, also demanded that “a new Shadow Cabinet be formed composed of those MPs who have demonstrated their active support of workers in struggle by joining picket lines in the current RMT dispute and other recent strikes”.

At the time of writing, the Labour Party has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Jonathan is a political reporter and commentator. His interests include philosophy and sociology.

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