Lisa Nandy tests Keir Starmer’s picket line order

The Labour leader appears to have U-turned on an order banning frontbenchers from picket lines

Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy
Allies of Nandy claim she informed Starmer of her intention to visit striking workers in her constituency
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy has visited striking workers on the picket line days after Labour leader Keir Starmer sacked a junior frontbencher for doing the same.

Nandy visited striking BT workers yesterday despite an edict from the Labour leader’s top team that frontbenchers should not do so. Her visit “illustrates the splits in the Labour movement on the party’s approach to strikes”, said the Financial Times (FT).

Sam Tarry, a junior spokesperson on transport, was sacked from the frontbench on Wednesday after joining rail workers on the picket line, although Labour gave the reson for Tarry’s sacking as breaching collective responsibility and giving “freelance” media interviews, said the paper.

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Starmer’s decision to “tolerate” Nandy’s visit is “effectively a U-turn” by the Labour leader, said The New Statesman. The Labour leader “has chosen a quiet retreat over further clashes with his party’s left”. However, continued the magazine, “it leaves those within his office, some of whom are deeply sceptical about the links between Labour and trade unions, on the opposite side of the argument”. Many within the party “will regard Starmer’s decision as sensible, however, given the many pay disputes that lie ahead”, it added.

Nandy and Starmer’s teams are understood to dispute “whether she was given tacit permission to attend the picket line”, in her constituency, reported The Guardian. Nandy’s team claims she informed Starmer’s office in advance of her intention to speak to members of the Communication Workers Union, but the leader’s office was said to be “blindsided” by pictures of the frontbencher at the picket line.

An unnamed shadow cabinet minister “said they were now deeply worried about party discipline and the potential for a row with the unions to overshadow the party conference”, added the paper.

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