Labour shadow minister Mike Amesbury QUITS to deal fresh blow to Sir Keir after rail strikes row – as departing frontbencher tells Starmer he wants to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with workers pushing for inflation-linked pay rises
Sir Keir Starmer suffered a fresh blow today as one of his shadow ministers quit and issued a vow to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with workers demanding pay rises.
Mike Amesbury resigned as Labour’s shadow local government minister as he expressed a wish to give ‘an even louder voice’ to his consituents struggling through the cost-of-living crisis.
His resignation follows a bitter row within Labour about the party’s position on nationwide rail strikes.
Mr Amesbury last week expressed support for those who caused train chaos with their industrial action.
Sir Keir has faced fury from Labour’s trade union backers after banning the party’s front bench from joining picket lines in support of the walkout by Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members.
During last week’s strikes, the Labour leader saw a handful of his top MPs defy his order – although Sir Keir has since dodged sacking them from his front bench and allowed the group to escape with a slap on the wrist.
Sir Keir has also opened the door to another Labour row after signalling he could support below-inflation pay rises for other parts of the public sector.
And Labour has recently been engaged with a spat with trade unions over the party’s muddled position over a planned strike by British Airways check-in staff.
Mike Amesbury resigned as Labour’s shadow local government minister as he expressed a wish to give ‘an even louder voice’ to his consituents
Sir Keir Starmer has faced fury from Labour’s trade union backers after banning the party’s front bench from joining picket lines in support of rail strikes
In his resignation letter, the Weaver Vale MP issued a vow to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with workers demanding pay rises
In a resignation to Sir Keir, Mr Amesbury issued a message to the Labour leader that workers pushing for pay rises amid the inflation crisis only want a ‘fair deal’ for their families.
‘Like you, I am tired of being faced with a Tory Prime Minister and Government that believes the rule of law does not apply to them, and stand by while British people struggle,’ he said.
‘As inflation bites, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all whose only ask is a fair deal for them and their families.
‘I intend to provide this support and voice from the back benches.’
Mr Amesbury, who first won his Weaver Vale constituency from the Tories at the 2017 general election, was previously a local councillor in Manchester, served as a trade union activist, and worked for senior Labour figures Angela Rayner and Andy Burnham.
He added in his letter to Sir Keir that he would do ‘all I can to work with the Labour movement to secure a Labour victory and put you in 10 Downing Street.’
‘This must be a victory with a purpose, a mission to drive out inequality in Britain with a bold offer that gives hope, powers up people and our communities,’ he continued.
‘I secured my marginal seat from the Tories in 2017 and retained it in very challenging circumstances in 2019.
‘At both elections I promised that I would put my constituents first.
‘I believe that if I am to continue to do so, I am not able to give the role of shadow local government minister the energy it demands and deserves.’
Mr Amesbury said that ‘a decade of Tory austerity, the impact of the pandemic and now soaring living costs have all meant a sustained increase in the number of constituents needing my help’.
‘I will now give them an even louder voice in the community and in Parliament,’ he added.
Last week, Mr Amesbury defended striking RMT workers by saying they ‘do not withdraw their labour lightly, it is a last resort, they are fighting to save jobs in this cost-of-living crisis’.
It is feared last week’s train strikes could turn into a wider ‘summer of discontent’, as other unions also clash with bosses over pay settlements.
Sir Keir has failed to outright back union demands for inflation-linked pay rises for public sector workers and instead pointed to the work of pay review bodies in deciding on wage hikes.
The Labour leader’s spokesman last week said the party was ‘not going to second-guess or pick numbers’ despite predictions that inflation could soar as high as 11 per cent later this year.
Yesterday, Labour frontbencher David Lammy apologised for his previous refusal to support a strike by British Airways’ check-in staff.
The shadow foreign secretary provoked fury among trade union leaders after declaring he did not back the planned walkout by airline workers.
But Mr Lammy later performed a U-turn and said sorry for ‘getting it wrong’, as he urged British Airways to give their employees a 10 per cent salary hike.
Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary and a leading figure on Labour’s Left, today told Mr Lammy his apology was ‘quite right’.
She added: ‘All Labour leaders should support workers in justified disputes. That includes anyone who has had a real terms pay cut in the last couple of years or more – which is most workers.’
Mr Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, recently challenged Sir Keir to set out what he stands for and insisted it was ‘entirely right’ for RMT members to strike, as he distanced himself from Labour’s leadership.
He has been heavily-tipped as a replacement for Sir Keir, should the Labour leader be forced to resign over his Beergate row.