‘I support the right to strike’: Keir Starmer backs trade union action despite telling frontbenchers to avoid picket lines

  • Sir Keir Starmer said he understands and supports people’s right to strike
  • But the Labour party leader told his frontbenchers not to appear on picket lines 
  • He proposed a six-month freeze on energy bills at the current £1,971 price cap
  • He said he could relate as the phone was cut off for months during his childhood

Sir Keir Starmer insisted yesterday he was a ‘proud’ trade unionist, despite telling his frontbenchers not to appear on picket lines.

The Labour leader said he ‘completely understands’ why workers were demanding pay increases, but added that it was a ‘question of roles’.

‘I want to be the Labour prime minister. 

‘I don’t think the role of the prime minister is [to] have a Cabinet meeting and then go on to a picket line,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Sir Keir was asked about Sam Tarry, who he sacked as the party’s transport spokesman for giving interviews on a rail union picket line.

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured on August 31) insisted yesterday he was a ‘proud’ trade unionist, despite telling his frontbenchers not to appear on picket lines

The Labour leader said: ‘Nobody has been fired for going on a picket line. When it comes to those disputes, I completely understand why so many working people feel they need a wage increase. 

‘I completely understand what people are going through and I support the right to strike.’

Sir Keir added that he knew ‘what it is like’ not being able to pay bills and remembered the phone being cut off for ‘months’ during his childhood.

Pressed on how his party would help struggling families in the months ahead, he told the BBC: ‘I actually do know what it is like to sit around the kitchen table not being able to pay your bills.’

He said he remembered the phone being cut off for ‘months at a time’.

Sir Keir said he was not claiming ‘great poverty’ but he said there were times when his family could not pay for utilities.

Sir Keir was asked about Sam Tarry, who he sacked as the party’s transport spokesman for giving interviews on a rail union picket line. Mr Tarry is pictured left on a picket line on July 30

‘Millions of people will be having that anxious conversation as we speak now,’ he added.

He has proposed a six-month freeze on energy bills at the current £1,971 price cap, funded in part by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas profits.

Some experts and think-tanks have warned that such a plan would prove inadequate to the scale of the cost-of-living crisis.

But Sir Keir said yesterday that it would meet the ‘concerns of millions of people’, even as he acknowledged that a fresh approach will be needed by the middle of next year.

‘I don’t accept that is kicking the can down the road,’ the Labour leader said of his party’s plan.

He said he understood the scale of the challenge facing households, adding that ‘many people listening and watching this will be saying “I can’t afford that”‘.

Pressed on his longer-term plans, he pointed to his party’s call for a ‘national mission’ on home insulation.

‘On the question of what we do long term, I am completely up for that challenge,’ he insisted. ‘I accept the challenge that something has got to be done in April.’

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