WATCH: Starmer “quite relaxed” about Nandy picket line visit, McCarthy says

Labour’s Kerry McCarthy has said Keir Starmer is “quite relaxed” about Lisa Nandy’s decision to visit striking members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), adding that it is “right” for MPs “to go out and talk to the people that they represent”.

The Shadow Levelling Up Secretary met with striking BT and Openreach workers on Monday. Fellow Labour frontbenchers Navendu Mishra and Imran Hussain also joined CWU members on picket lines.

Appearing on Sky News this morning, the shadow climate change minister declared: “We think it’s right for MPs to go out and talk to the people that they represent, which is what Lisa Nandy was doing this week.”

McCarthy said Starmer had spoken to Lisa and that the Labour leader was “quite relaxed about the fact that she went out to talk to the people that she represents”.

On the decision to sack Sam Tarry last week after he joined a rail strike picket line, she told viewers: “The difference with Sam is that he actually did a whole media round and came up with policies that hadn’t been cleared by the party, and that’s just not something that you do if you’re in the shadow frontbench team.

“You have to have collective responsibility. It puts your colleagues in a very difficult position if people are just freelancing it. And I think Sam did know that that’s what he was doing.”

McCarthy said: “There’s a performative element of standing on the picket line holding up signs when you’re not the one on strike. But I think there’s a difference between that and actually going out and talking to people and supporting.

The Labour frontbencher continued: “I’ve not been on a picket line, but I’ve had conversations with people that are going out on strike and some of the unions that are talking about possible strike action in the autumn, and I think that’s very much my job as an MP to do that.”

Asked whether Labour strongly backing the unions is a potential vote loser, she said: “I would like to think that people recognise the importance of working people’s rights. They were very hard fought for.”

She argued that in the context of “sky-rocketing” inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, it is “only fair” for people to be allowed to ask that their wages “help them meet some of the cost of that”.

McCarthy said it is “not helpful” when Labour is seen “in the forefront of this and taking attention off the government”, adding: “Grant Shapps would love it to be Labour MPs on picket lines with the rail workers, and that be the story, because that means that he can abdicate any sense of responsibility.”

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