Labour opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer faces a test of authority from his own frontbench, after at least four members of his shadow team joined RMT picket lines while his deputy also backed the strikes.
Earlier this week, he promised to discipline frontbenchers who joined the protest and defied his orders to not get involved – wrecking the Labour leader’s attempt to forge a compromise position.
Starmer was already at odds with the left of his party, with more than a dozen backbench Labour MPs publicly backing the strikes.
By contrast, he has tried to avoid condemning or supporting them.
He told his frontbench team that they “should not be on picket lines” in order to show leadership.
Kate Osborne and Paula Barker, both parliamentary private secretaries to shadow cabinet ministers, ignored that order, as did Navendru Mishra, a Labour Party whip.
Alex Sobel, a shadow environment minister, was also pictured on a picket line.
The Times has reported that Sir Alan Campbell, Labour’s chief whip, will wait until the end of strikes before disciplining frontbenchers.
The party refused to say whether they would be sacked and Starmer did not comment.
A Labour spokeswoman told the newspaper: “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 with them. Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps must U-turn on their refusal to even meet with Network Rail and the RMT.”
The strikes across both the rail and tube networks hugely disrupted travel around London yesterday, with commuters relying on buses, cars, bikes and boats to get to work – if they weren’t told to stay at home.
Further rail strikes are expected on Thursday and Saturday, with disruption likely to be felt by commuters all week in the largest scale industrial action on the railways in three decades.