Senior Scots trade union official quits Labour and calls for Keir Starmer to go

A senior trade union official in Scotland has quit Labour over the sacking of the party’s shadow transport minister Sam Tarry.

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer

Kevin Lindsay, Scotland organiser for Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said Labour is “moving to the right” under UK leader Sir Keir Starmer and is “becoming unrecognisable from the party I joined and have stayed loyal to”.

It comes as Sir Keir struggles to contain a row with the unions and the left-wing of his party, with former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell backing calls for a general strike.

Mr Tarry, who is in a relationship with deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, was fired from his role after publicly backing the rail strikes by RMT members and giving a round of media interviews without permission from his party’s headquarters.

Labour has not officially supported the industrial action, but has criticised the UK Government and urged ministers to get involved in negotiations.

Mr Lindsay insisted Mr Tarry’s sacking was a “step too far” and said he now backed Aslef disaffiliating from Labour.

However, he praised Scottish leader Anas Sarwar and his team.

In a letter to the party, Mr Lindsay said: “The party in Scotland have performed better and the support that my union and other unions have had from Anas and his team has been fantastic especially [transport spokesman] Neil Bibby.

"I strongly believe Starmer’s actions and his failure to stand up for working people means that the Labour Party will remain a party of opposition for the long term.

"The Labour party was and is meant to be the political wing of the trade union movement but now it’s more interested in trying woo Tory voters in the shires of England than representing working people.

"As a democratic I respect that Keir Starmer has been elected the leader but I truly believe his performance and policies are making it impossible for the Labour Party to return to power and that he should be removed from his position immediately.

"There needs to be a change in leadership and political direction but I sadly can’t see this happening and we will end up with PM [Liz] Truss for several years.

"Therefore I have made the decision not only to resign from the Labour Party but now also support the proposal for Aslef to disaffiliate from the party.”

Speaking to Sky News, Mr McDonnell described Mr Tarry’s sacking as a “severe mistake”, accused Sir Keir of “misreading the mood of the public”.

Asked about the general strike proposed by RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, the Labour former shadow chancellor said: “If you look at the ballots that are taking place across the trade union movement, we are talking about millions of workers now voting for industrial action. So, naturally, what people are saying as well, why not co-ordinate that?

“Well, I support co-ordinated action, because if that results in a decent pay rise for people, they are protected against the cost-of-living crisis. I think that’s the most effective thing to do.”

Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) general secretary Manuel Cortes, RMT boss Mr Lynch and Unite general secretary Sharon Graham have all criticised Sir Keir’s decision to sack Mr Tarry.

Announcing he would be removed from the frontbench, a Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.

“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.”

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