Lisa Nandy denied that she had “defied” Starmer and said Labour was “absolutely united” on the issue of strikes. (Photo: Sky News)
Labour’s Lisa Nandy has said she will not be on the picket line in the coming weeks as more and more workers prepare for strike action.
Emergency 999 call operators are out on strike today in a dispute over pay, while the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also opened its ballot for strike action calling for a “decent wage” from the government.
Labour has been embroiled in a row over how it should express support for striking workers.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has said members of his frontbench should not attend picket lines because the party had to move away from “protest” and act like a “government in waiting”.
The row reached a head in the summer when Starmer sacked then transport minister, Sam Tarry, after he appeared on a picket line in Euston. The party later said he was sacked for “making up policy on the hoof”.
Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, found herself in the centre of dispute when she spoke to workers striking in her constituency of Wigan in what was interpreted as an act of defiance against Starmer.
Asked by Sky News whether she thought emergency call operators should go on strike, Nandy replied: “I don’t, but neither do they.
“I’m not going to sit here and condemn emergency call handlers who’ve been told that they’ve got to choose between staying in a job that they love and feeding their own families.
“I will condemn a government that has crashed the economy and poured fuel on the fire of rising inflation and caused interest rates and housing costs to rise for millions of families across the country, and a company that is just given huge pay rises to its top brass, but is opening food banks for its own workers in order to eat.”
Nandy denied that she had “defied” Starmer and said Labour was “absolutely united” on the issue.
“Keir Starmer has been absolutely clear that our job is to get into parliament and solve this problem, get into government and handle the economy right, and that is exactly what we’re focused on.
“That’s why next week, I will be in parliament doing my job so that those emergency call handlers can get back to work and do their own.
“But we’re clear, and the workforce are clear, that they need us — some of the only people in the country who’ve got the right to hold this government to account and summon them to the House of Commons to do so in order to solve this crisis for working people up and down the country.“
Presenter Kay Burley interjected: “But the leader said don’t go on the picket line, and you did. I’m asking you, would you do it again?
Nandy replied: “I’m not going to be on a picket line next week or in the coming weeks, I’m going to be in parliament doing my job.
“And actually I’ve never gone out and picketed because that is not my job. I’ve been a member of parliament now for 12 years, I’ve always met with my constituents, I’ve always listened to their concerns, and when they go on a picket line, I know that they do it as a last resort, but that’s their job.
“My job as their member of parliament has always been to go out and fight for wider change.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.