Labour’s largest union backer Unite has again threatened to withdraw its funding from the party as it rails against Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on strikes.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham accused Starmer of “sticking two fingers up” to striking British workers and added that it was becoming “harder and harder to defend” paying the party £1m a year in affiliation fees.
Starmer has not been in favour of this summer’s crippling rail strikes and has told his frontbench not to attend picket lines, with the Labour leader saying the party must not just be a “party of protest”.
He sacked transport minister Sam Tarry for doing interviews at picket lines last week and for publicly advocating inflation-linked pay rises for rail workers – a position that is not in line with current Labour policy.
Labour shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy joined a union picket line at her Wigan constituency this morning, however her team said she consulted Starmer in advance.
She went to meet with striking BT and Openreach workers from the Communication Workers Union (CWU), who walked off the job to fight for better pay.
In an apparent U-turn, Starmer’s spokesperson said that “this isn’t about appearing on a picket line” and that the larger issue was frontbenchers freestyling on policy, without permission from the leader’s office.
Unite has had a long-running battle with Starmer over his efforts to moderate the party after Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and has reduced its funding to the party over the past few years.
Graham told The Sunday People: “If I was speaking to Keir right now, I would say to him: which side are you on?
“Because the reality is, if I closed my eyes, sometimes I wouldn’t know whether it was the Labour Party or the Tories who were speaking.”