Anas Sarwar refuses to back Keir Starmer over sacking of Labour frontbencher

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has refused to back Sir Keir Starmer's decision to sack a shadow minister after he attended a picket line.

Mr Sarwar said he would not tell Sir Keir, the UK Labour leader, how to manage his group of MPs.

However, the Scottish leader made clear he encouraged his own MSPs to go out and support frontline workers.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar. Picture: John Linton/PA Wire

Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry was sacked from the Labour frontbench last week after joining strikers at an RMT picket line at Euston Station in London.

Sir Keir, who previously banned frontbenchers from joining picket lines, said Mr Tarry was sacked for booking himself onto media programmes without permission and making up policy “on the hoof”.

But the decision sparked a furious row with trade union leaders.

Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, said she was “aghast” at Sir Keir’s approach to striking workers.

Asked if he backed Sir Keir's decision to sack Mr Tarry, Mr Sarwar said: "I'm not going to tell Keir how to manage his group, and I imagine I wouldn't take very kindly to him trying to tell me how to manage my group."

He added: "People know my opinion. People know that I have been out on the frontline supporting people on the pickets, talking to them, listening to their issues."

Mr Sarwar said it was not about personalities or individual political leaders, but the need for urgent action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Asked again if he backed Sir Keir's decision, he said: "Look, I'm not going to tell him how to run his group. That's for him to decide how to run his group.

"I have been very clear about how I operate with my group.

"I've seen many of my own frontbench colleagues out supporting people on the frontline.

"I encourage them to do it, I'm pleased they do it and they have my full backing."

Mr Sarwar made the comments at an event in Edinburgh to launch the second in a series of papers outlining his plans to reform Scotland.

This includes measures to strengthen the Scottish Parliament and improve transparency.

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