Labour MP fears Sam Tarry’s sacking was a ‘watershed moment’ between Labour and the trade union movement

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Ian Lavery has accused the Conservative Party of waging a ‘war on working people,’ and urged Labour to ‘come to its senses’

A Labour MP has spoken out about the decision by Sir Keir Starmer to sack the shadow transport minister Sam Tarry, who voiced support for striking RMT workers and did a number of media interviews from a picket line.

Ian Lavery, the MP for Wansbeck in the North East, has warned that Labour must do more to show it is ‘on the side of working people,’ or it puts at risk the historic link between the party and the trade union movement.

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‘A watershed moment’

Mr Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Miners (NUM), told NationalWorld that he fears the sacking of Mr Tarry could represent a “watershed moment”.

He said: “I fear that yesterday was sadly a watershed moment for the relationship between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions in this country.”

Mr Tarry was sacked as shadow transport minister after giving a number of media interviews on an RMT picket line, in which he voiced support for striking workers and criticised below-inflation pay offers for workers across the economy.

The Labour leader previously warned frontbench MPs against appearing alongside striking workers on picket lines prior to the RMT’s first round of strike action last month, although a Labour source has said Mr Tarry was not sacked for appearing on a picket line.

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A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.

“As a government in waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons Sam Tarry has been removed from the frontbench.”

‘Not too late’ for Labour

However, Mr Lavery has criticised his party over its failure to “throw their full support” behind the RMT workers, while other trade union figures have raised concerns that the party will fail to support workers in other upcoming national disputes.

He said: “The party’s failure to throw their full support behind the striking RMT members, and the subsequent dismissal of Sam Tarry as Shadow Transport Secretary for doing so himself, is an existential risk to the historic links between the party and the unions that has been the backbone of our movement for over a century.

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“Unionised rail workers were pivotal in the formation of the Labour Party which was born out of the need for proper working class representation in parliament.”

With inflation tracking at historic highs and expected to continue rising, many trade unions are warning that industrial action will become increasingly necessary in the coming months unless companies offer real-terms wage rises.

CPI hit 9.4% in June, while RPI was more than 11%, with a significant body of evidence pointing toward corporate profits as a major driver of inflation.

“The party needs to recognise that working people up and down the country have had enough and will not accept these real term pay cuts. If Labour are not on the side of working people facing a decline in their living standards while large companies accumulate billions in profit then where do we stand?”

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But Mr Lavery has said it is “not too late” for the party to position itself on the right side of the battle between working people and bosses.

He said: “The Conservative Party are waging a war on working people and the rhetoric from the two leadership candidates regarding trade union laws is extreme and frightening.

“It is not too late for the Labour Party to come to its senses and get on side with working people fighting for a fair deal in the workplace.”

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