Keir missing in action as Labour MPs queue up to defy him on strikes

Keir STILL missing in action as more than 20 Labour MPs defy him by backing rail strikes: Shadow minister suggests they did not even read edict banning picket line photo ops… as fence-sitting leader braces for a PMQs battering

  • Keir Starmer facing major revolt over his stance on rail strikes crippling Britain
  • The Labour leader defied by MPs after urging frontbench not to join picket lines
  • Sir Keir stayed completely silent all day amid the worst strikes in three decades  

Keir Starmer is still missing in action today as his own MPs accuse him of ‘getting it wrong’ on rail strikes.

The Labour leader faces a mounting revolt after dozens joined picket lines to show support for industrial action crippling the country.

They included at least four front benchers, even though Sir Keir ordered them to shun the protests. Extraordinarily, shadow rail minister Tan Dhesi claimed last night that he had not even seen the edict from the leader’s office.   

Deputy leader Angela Rayner inflamed simmering tensions by openly backing the strikes, saying the RMT union had ‘no choice’ as it demands a pay rise of more than 7 per cent. 

But Sir Keir himself was accused of into ‘hiding’ after refusing to make any comment on the biggest industrial dispute for 30 years.

He will have to surface later with the weekly PMQs session due at noon – and Boris Johnson certain to revel in his discomfort. 

Keir Starmer (pictured in Wakefield at the weekend) faces a mounting revolt after dozens joined picket lines to show support for industrial action crippling the country

Red line: Labour MPs at London’s Victoria station yesterday, from left: 1. Beth Winter (Cynon Valley), 2. Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside), 3. Rachael Maskell (York Central), 4. Ian Mearns (Gateshead), 5. Richard Burgon (Leeds East), 6. Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), 7. Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby), 8. Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), 9. Dan Carden (Liverpool Walton), 10. Paula Barker (Liverpool Wavertree)

The PM has branded the strike ‘wrong and unnecessary’ and called for a return to negotiations. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused Labour and the unions of ‘taking us back to the bad old days’ of the 1970s.

He added of Sir Keir: ‘The Left senses his weakness and is humiliating him with every Labour MP appearance on a picket line. He has lost his grip on his own party.’

The fallout from the strike was continuing today, with the RMT spreading three days of action across the week to cause maximum pain.

Less than than 20 per cent of services ran yesterday. Nine out of ten services in Scotland were axed as all trains north of Falkirk were cancelled.

Travellers were left stranded or forced to take to congested roads as only five services operated in the Central Belt.

Sir Keir’s aides said he would be making no public comment. A spokesman added: ‘Unlike the Government, our focus is firmly on the public. The Tories are in charge… the responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them.’

Ms Rayner took advantage of the leadership vacuum to make clear she backed the strikes. ‘Workers have been left with no choice,’ she said.

‘No one takes strike action lightly. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work.’

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was photographed backing striking workers north of the border.  

Mr Sarwar wrote on Twitter: ‘This is a crisis entirely of the Government’s making. The workers don’t want strikes. The unions don’t want strikes. The public don’t want strikes. They demand better.’ 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was not issuing similar orders against joining picket lines to his AMs.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar met with striking RMT workers outside Edinburgh Waverley station yesterday

Shadow environment minister Alex Sobel was spotted on the RMT picket line yesterday despite Sir Keir’s edict

Sir Keir’s office warned Labour frontbenchers on Monday that they would be disciplined if they joined picket lines outside stations.

But at least four members of his top team ignored the warning, including shadow minister Alex Sobel, Labour whip Navendu Mishra and parliamentary aides Kate Osborne and Paula Barker.

Ms Dhesi told Talk TV last night that he did not receive the edict. 

‘I did not receive any email. In fact I got my team to check, to comb through the emails,’ he said.

‘There wasn’t any official memo coming out to the likes of myself. That’s why you would have seen different people doing different things.’

Mr Dhesi said he personally had not gone to a picket line because ‘I was too busy trying to do my job’.

Liverpool MP Kim Johnson told the BBC that Sir Keir had ‘got it wrong’ on the strikes

‘We’re a party that was born out of the trade union movement,’ she said.

‘I think Keir Starmer has got it wrong.’

Simon Fletcher, a former top aide to Sir Keir, told LBC radio that the Labour leader would face a major backlash if he tried to lay down the law, including the possible loss of huge sums of union funding.

Sir Keir already appears to be in retreat, with Labour sources saying that chief whip Alan Campbell will not decide until the weekend whether to impose disciplinary action.

Mr Lynch urged RMT members to inflict more misery tomorrow, saying: ‘Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.’

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