Labour frontbencher sacked after defying Starmer order to stay away from rail strike picket line

Labour frontbencher Sam Tarry has been sacked as shadow transport minister after defying Keir Starmer’s order to stay away from rail strike picket lines.

The Ilford South MP showed his support for the RMT union’s walkout over pay and redundancies by joining strikers at London’s Euston station just a day after the Labour leader warned his frontbench not to do so.

On Wednesday, Sir Keir told his senior MPs: “The Labour party in opposition needs to be the Labour party in power. And a government doesn’t go on picket lines, a government tries to resolve disputes.”

But Mr Tarry, a former officer of the TSSA transport trade union who helped run Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign, flouted his leader’s orders by conducting a TV interview from a picket line as strikes got under way this morning.

“I’m here supporting these striking workers because it’s important we get a pay deal and get to resolve as soon as possible so the travelling public can get back to work,” Mr Tarry said.

“The reality is this is about a failing government, this is about dispute happening all across the country. We’ve got potentially doctors, nurses and communication workers.”

Asked if he feared the sack, the shadow minister replied: “I’ve no idea what Keir will decide to do but I know this – if Keir was in government right now, this dispute wouldn’t be happening.”

His decision put Starmer under significant pressure, after the Labour leader failed to discipline frontbenchers who joined pickets on a previous dispute. Transport secretary Grant Shapps described his action as “direct defiance”of the Labour leadership, adding: “If Labour frontbenchers are going to join them on the picket line, people will come to their own conclusions.”

Announcing his dismissal several hours later, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.

“This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench 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 frontbench.”

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