Keir Starmer refused to join rail strike pickets “because I want to be a Labour Prime Minister”.
The Labour leader made his comments on Channel 5’s popular Jeremy Vine show, responding to callers as thousands of workers continue to bring the country to a halt with industrial action.
Starmer previously told close cabinet colleagues not to join pick lines, sacking Sam Tarry from a shadow cabinet role after he did so. His leadership has been tested however, with other senior MPs such as Lisa Nandy defying his orders, but not getting removed from her role.
This morning, TSSA union members on 10 rail lines backed industrial action in September, while BT and Royal Mail workers walked out today also.
More strikes have been threatened, with a motion to be discussed at the Trades Union Congress (TUC)’s conference in September, to plan co-ordinated walkouts.
Starmer responded to a caller on whether he supports the rail strikes, saying “I completely understand why people are voting to go on strike, I understand how much they’re struggling – wages have been stagnant for the best part of 10 years, we’ve now got a cost-of-living crisis, so prices are going up.”
Asked if he’d join the picket line, he said: “No.
“I want a Labour government, I want to be a Labour prime minister. You can’t sit around the Cabinet table resolving issues and then walk onto a picket line, they are different jobs.”
The TSSA Union has been approached for comment, with its leader saying Starmer should “get a spine” on the Vine show.