There is “clear difference” between Tarry and Nandy picket visits, Mahmood says

Katie Neame

Labour’s Shabana Mahmood has said there is a “clear difference” between the actions that saw Sam Tarry sacked after joining striking rail workers last week and Lisa Nandy’s visit to a Communication Workers Union (CWU) picket line on Monday.

Tarry was sacked as a shadow transport minister after giving a number of interviews on a National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) picket line. Nandy, who met with striking BT and Openreach workers earlier this week, has not been publicly reprimanded.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mahmood said: “There’s a clear difference between both of those incidences. Let me just explain. Keir has made very clear that we are a government-in-waiting.

“We want the people of our country to put us into government at that next election, and we want that election as soon as possible and think it should happen as soon the new Tory Prime Minister is elected.

“A government-in-waiting has to behave seriously like a government and model the behaviour that we would have in government.

“If you’re a government minister, you need to be able to get round a negotiating table with public sector, unions, pay officials, worker bodies, representatives and get to fair negotiations and act in good faith.”

Labour’s national campaign coordinator added: “You can’t do that… if you get to that negotiating table from picketing at a picket line. So he’s been very clear that Labour frontbenchers should not be picketing at a picket line.

“But there is a world of difference between that and members of parliament meeting workers in their constituency, talking to them about the issues that are affecting them, their pay, their conditions, how they’re struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“That is behaviour you’d expect, not just from Labour MPs by the way, but you’d expect it from all members of parliament to engage with their constituents and talk to them about the issues that are affecting them. That’s what Lisa was doing.”

Mahmood declared that Tarry was removed from his shadow minister role “because he broke collective responsibility” by doing a media round on the picket line and “making up a Labour Party policy on the hoof”.

The Labour frontbencher added: “That is not acceptable for Labour frontbenchers. You would expect us all to maintain discipline and collective responsibility. When that is broken there will be consequences.”

Mahmood stressed: “There is a world of difference between that case and all members of parliament wanting to engage with their constituents as is completely right and proper.

“I would expect Tory MPs to be engaging with workers in their constituency if they profess to care about how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everybody. They should be talking to workers as well.”

Shadow cabinet ministers were reportedly warned of a “breakdown in discipline” over Labour’s approach to strikes after Nandy visited the picket line on Monday. Nandy and members of Keir Starmer’s team are understood to dispute whether she was given permission to do so.

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