Rift Brews Within Labour Party Amid Keir Starmer's Attempt to Ban MPs From Rail Strikes

© AP Photo / Alastair GrantLeader of the British Labour Party Keir Starmer gestures as he makes his keynote speech at the annual party conference in Brighton, England, Sept. 29, 2021
Leader of the British Labour Party Keir Starmer gestures as he makes his keynote speech at the annual party conference in Brighton, England, Sept. 29, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.06.2022
According to a report by The Telegraph, the majority of the party supports the decision of Labour leader Keir Starmer to order MPs not to take part in the picketing. It was purportedly designed to avoid "the Tory trap" of backing the railroad workers as UK's transport system agonized during their strike.
The Labour party is facing a rift in its ranks as some of its members, including several frontbenchers, have defied orders from their head Keir Starmer to "show leadership" by not participating in strikes organized by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
Around 20 MPs ignored Starmer's order and took to the picket lines to show their support for the RMT, including two parliamentary private secretaries to Labour's shadow secretaries, a Labour whip, the party's deputy leader Angela Rayner, and shadow environment minister Alex Sobel. The four are likely to be disciplined for their defiance, although none have lost their posts so far.
Starmer's ban on taking part in the strike sowed discontent among some of the Labour MPs, who condemned his move.

"No Labour MP should be sacked or disciplined for showing solidarity with workers," Labour MP and former shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said sardonically.

An anonymous source claimed in an interview with The Telegraph that the majority of the party supports the idea of skipping the RMT strikes, calling it a smart move to avoid falling "into the Tory trap".

"Unlike the Government, our focus is firmly on the public. The Tories are in charge, and they failed to fix it. The responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them," the source said.

However, many Labour party members publicly condemned Starmer's stance, calling it a source of "shame". Labour MP Charlotte Nichols dismissed the party chief's claim that ignoring the strike was a sign of "leadership", insisting that they should provide "unequivocal" support to the railway workers on the strike.
Former shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald condemned lack of support for RMT from the party's leadership and called the ban on taking part in the pickets "both politically foolish and a denial of the very reason we exist."
"The Labour Party leadership needs to stop fence-sitting and wholeheartedly back not just the RMT, but all workers who are taking action to protect their livelihoods", McDonald said in his article for the Tribune magazine.
Starmer's deputy, Angela Rayner, insisted that the railway workers were "left with no choice", but to go on strike amid rising consumer prices and said she would "always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work".
At the same time, Rayner and at least 15 other Labour MPs were recently found to have received financial support from the RMT, mostly via local parties in their constituencies, according to the PoliticsHome website. The 16 lawmakers received donation from the UK transport workers' union between 2015 to 2020, the website reported citing an obtained memo. Some of the mentioned lawmakers, namely Diane Abbott, confirmed they are living off donations from unions, but did not single out the RMT.
Transport for London workers help commuters get onboard buses, during a strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.06.2022
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Tories are also apparently taking advantage of the nascent rift in the Labour party, with Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, accusing Keir Starmer of being "invisible" amid the railway workers' strikes. UK Environment Minister Paul Howell, in turn, chipped in by praising Labour party members, who ignored Starmer's order as the latter "has gone into hiding".
The RMT went ahead with calling a strike earlier this week after failing to negotiate with the train operators and the governments on an array of issues that worried the union. They specifically complained about the pay rates being significantly behind the current 40-years-high inflation, massive job cuts and reduction safety inspections on the infrastructure by 50%.
The strike kicked off on 21 June and will continue on June 23th and 26th if no agreement is reached on RMT demands.
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