Labour frontbencher sacked after interview on rail strike picket line


A Labour MP has been removed from the party’s frontbench by Sir Keir Starmer after giving a TV interview on the picket line during a rail strike.

Sam Tarry, the MP for Ilford South and shadow transport minister, was this morning at Euston station along with rail workers taking industrial action over pay and conditions.

He told Sky News the way the government was treating them was disgusting.

Another rail strike announced – live updates

Labour frontbenchers were banned from joining picket lines during last month’s strikes.

A spokesperson from Labour said the party “will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work”.

But they added: “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.

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“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.”

It is understood the decision was made over comments Mr Tarry made in a Sky News interview where he suggested workers could not be offered a below-inflation pay rise. Labour’s position is that pay negotiations are for unions and ministers.

A senior Labour source has told Sky News: “You can’t make up your own policies on an unauthorised national TV appearance and expect it all to be fine.”

They added: “It’s also a hilarious amount of attention for an absolute nobody who has never achieved anything

Analysis: Sam Tarry’s sacking reignites long-standing tensions in Labour party

Liz Bates

Political correspondent


The sacking of Labour’s shadow transport secretary Sam Tarry has reignited long-standing tensions between the left of the party and the leadership.

Keir Starmer – desperate to draw a line under the Jeremy Corbyn era – has told his MPs not to go out on picket lines alongside striking workers.

He wants Labour to be seen as a government in waiting not a protest movement.

But Sam Tarry and others believe that is a betrayal of the party’s history and commitment to solidarity with the unions.

His numerous media appearances this morning on the frontline from Euston angered senior figures who swiftly ousted him from Starmer’s frontbench.

Since then he has continued to stir up trouble, saying he has spoken to union bosses who are furious and on course for a showdown with Labour’s top team.

Meanwhile, a senior Labour source has told Sky News: “You can’t make up your own policies on an unauthorised national TV appearance and expect it all to be fine.

They added: “It’s also a hilarious amount of attention for an absolute nobody who has never achieved anything.”

Clearly there is no love lost between the two sides.

And as the strikes continue over summer it look likes Labour infighting could carry on as well.

The move has sparked outrage among allies of Mr Tarry on the left of the party.

But the former frontbencher has notably declined to criticise the Labour leadership himself, instead hitting out at “callous and incompetent ministers” who he accused of refusing to negotiate with trade unions.

He said it was “a real shame” to be sacked for “standing shoulder to shoulder” with striking workers, adding Labour was “going to really struggle to win the faith of the British people” as more strikes take place in different sectors.

But he said he was a Labour “loyalist” and offered his thanks to Sir Keir for letting him serve on the frontbench, claiming he had been “a real asset to the party, making sure our agenda of progressive transport policies is put forward”.

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Sam Tarry sacked after joining rail strike

He said: “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.”

Mr Tarry caused a stir when he turned up at the picket line this morning alongside RMT union boss Mick Lynch.

He denied defying party orders, saying: “I’m not defying anybody. I’m here supporting 40,000 low paid transport workers who decided to go on strike.”

He continued to tweet his support for the strikes afterwards, saying he was “proud” to be on the picket line.

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Labour minister defies Starmer

‘Wake up and smell the coffee’

A number of MPs on the left of the Labour Party have tweeted their support for Mr Tarry after his sacking from the frontbench.

Read more:
What you need to know as industrial action continues
Sir Keir Starmer U-turns on election pledge to nationalise railways

John McDonnell tweeted: “This must be the first Labour MP to be removed from his frontbench position for joining a trade union picket line to support workers.”

Kate Osamor said: “Solidarity @SamTarry. The Labour Party exists to fight for ordinary people. We must never lose sight of that.”

And Zarah Sultana said: “Labour MPs should be proud to stand with workers. The clue is in the name.”

The TSSA transport union also slammed the decision, saying they were “ashamed” of the Labour party.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Whatever excuses the Labour Party makes about the reasons for Sam being sacked, the reality is that Sam has shown solidarity with his class and we applaud him for that. The Labour Party needs to wake up and smell the coffee. If they think can win the next general election while pushing away seven million trade union members, they are deluded.”

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