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Boris Johnson twisted the knife on Keir Starmer today hammering his ‘unbelievable silence’ on rail strikes.
At a bruising PMQs, Mr Johnson accused the Labour leader of lacking the ‘gumption’ to condemn the industrial action crippling the country because unions funded his party.
He swiped that Sir Keir’s MPs had been photographed ‘out on the picket lines literally holding hands with Arthur Scargill’, adding: ‘It’s worse than under Jeremy Corbyn.’
But Sir Keir hit back that Mr Johnson needed to ‘do your job’ and settle the strikes.
The bitter exchanges came as Sir Keir faces a major revolt after dozens of his MPs ignored his pleas by making very public shows of support.
They included at least four front benchers, while Mr Scargill – who led the miners’ strikes in the 1980s – was also out to endorse the action.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner inflamed simmering tensions by openly backing the strikes, saying the RMT union had ‘no choice’ as it demands a pay rise of more than 7 per cent.
But Sir Keir himself was accused of into ‘hiding’ after refusing to make any comment on the biggest industrial dispute for 30 years.
Boris Johnson (left) twisted the knife on Keir Starmer (right) today hammering his ‘unbelievable silence’ on rail strikes
Red line: Labour MPs at London’s Victoria station yesterday, from left: 1. Beth Winter (Cynon Valley), 2. Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside), 3. Rachael Maskell (York Central), 4. Ian Mearns (Gateshead), 5. Richard Burgon (Leeds East), 6. Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), 7. Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby), 8. Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), 9. Dan Carden (Liverpool Walton), 10. Paula Barker (Liverpool Wavertree)
Furious commuters form huge queues as Tube stations stay SHUT despite strikes being off today
London’s busiest Tube stations were still closed at 8am today after ‘underhand’ RMT tactics meant that militant workers on strike were late to work this morning.
Huge queues formed outside seven Underground stations remained shuttered at 9.30am because of a lack of staff, while tempers flared at Paddington, Stratford, King’s Cross/St Pancras and more than a dozen other sites in all corners of the capital, MailOnline can reveal.
Many commuters tweeted TfL demanding to know why their local stations were open at 8am as promised. Others posted pictures of empty Tube trains with no drivers. Those who managed to get onto trains found services were few and far between – and rammed. After a skeleton service yesterday, trains are in the wrong place and only 60% of the 20,000 normal weekday services will be able to operate today.
Traffic was as heavy as yesterday because more people had to use their cars. There were 2,046 traffic jams in London this morning, covering a total length of 834 miles, and a 30-minute journey was taking an average of an hour, according to traffic data analyst TomTom.
But the biggest strikes in 30 years have also forced millions of people to WFH again for the second day in a row as Mick Lynch attempts to bring Britain to its knees.
Eerie photos yesterday showed deserted town and city centres across the country, in scenes reminiscent of the ‘darkest days of Covid’ when whole swathes of the economy were devastated by lockdown.
In the Commons, Mr Johnson raged that Sir Keir ‘hasn’t even got the gumption to speak out against the rail strikes’.
‘We are making sure that we do everything we can to prevent these strikes. He knows it is up to the railway companies to negotiate, that is their job. We’ve spent £16 billion looking after the railways throughout the pandemic, that’s cost every household £600.
He added: ‘We know why he won’t condemn the strikes, we know why even now he hasn’t got the gumption to call out his MPs for going out to support the pickets. The reason his authority is on the line in this matter is that they take £10million… that’s the fee the learned gentleman opposite is receiving for the case he is failing to make.’
Sir Keir said the PM and Grant Shapps had not ‘attended a single meeting, held a conversation or lifted a finger to stop these strikes’.
Mr Johnson said the government is trying to ‘cut the cost of transport’ by reforming railways.
‘That’s what we’re trying to do, but he’s standing with the strikers and lifting the cost of transport for everybody, that’s the reality,’ he added.
Sir Keir was under fire on another flank today as Labour-controlled Merseyrail was slated for handing train staff a 7.1 per cent pay deal.
The TSSA union announced it has accepted the ‘reasonable’ offer from the operator – overseen by Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram.
But the government immediately distanced itself from the package, stressing that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had no say. In contrast, the RMT is launching strikes across the country after rejecting offers worth around 4 per cent.
A senior source told MailOnline it was evidence of Labour’s inability to resist eye-watering demands from unions. ‘They would just roll over wherever they are,’ the source said.
Merseyrail employs around 1,200 people, with the TSSA representing a range of staff from guards to driver managers.
Those staff have not been striking, but services have still been crippled by the RMT action affecting Network Rail and other operators.
TSSA chief Manuel Cortes said: ‘What this clearly shows is our union, and sister unions, are in no way a block on finding the solutions needed to avoid a summer of discontent on the railways.’
Mr Rotheram declared yesterday that he was ‘standing in solidarity’ with the RMT as their strike action crippled the country.
The agreement emerged as official figures showed the headline CPI rate of inflation hit another 40-year high of 9.1 per cent in May.
However, ministers and the Bank of England have been begging for wage restraint to avoid creating an even worse price spiral.
A spokesman for Sir Keir today defended the Labour leader’s silence on the train strikes throughout yesterday.
‘He has repeatedly talked about, he did media interviews when he was in Wakefield on Saturday, it was a section of his speech to the Local Government Association on Sunday, you saw him raise it as an issue in PMQs today,’ the spokesman said.
‘We don’t want the strikes to go ahead, we don’t want to see the disruption to the British public they are causing.
‘The Government has to take its share of responsibility for the fact we have ended up in this situation and the fact it seems to be more interested in using this issue for party political campaigning than actually doing anything to resolve it.
‘What the British public would expect from their Government is they play a role in ensuring this disruption doesn’t happen rather than just acting as a commentator from the sidelines.’
The spokesman denied Sir Keir’s position on strikes had been undermined by Labour MPs joining picket lines.
He said: ‘The position has been followed by the vast majority of the frontbench and he’s set out his views clearly on that.’
Asked about disciplinary action being taken against those Labour frontbenchers who disobeyed Sir Keir’s order on joining picket lines, the spokesman repeatedly said it would be a matter for the party’s chief whip.
It is understood a letter was sent to shadow cabinet ministers warning them not to join picket lines, with the message then being passed to other members of Labour’s front bench.
Asked if Sir Keir was angry with those MPs who disobeyed his orders, the spokesman said: ‘He set out his position. The process now is it’s with the chief whip and I’m not going to get ahead of where the chief whip is on that.’
Sir Keir has ‘communicated his wishes’ on what should happen to those MPs to the chief whip, the spokesman added.
‘The right way is for the process to go ahead as it should and that is for the chief whip to speak to the individuals concerned,’ he said.
The Labour leader’s spokesman said decisions by the party’s chief whip would be taken in the ‘next few days’.
The spokesman suggested that Labour MPs who joined picket lines, but were not on the party’s front bench, would escape punishment.
Asked about Mr Sarwar’s decision to join a picket line at Edinburgh Waverley station, the spokesman said: ‘That’s obviously a decision for Anas. He’s entitled to make his own decisions in his role as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.’
The spokesman denied that Sir Keir was too busy to comment on the strikes yesterday, but said the Labour leader had spent most of the day in the office.
‘If he’d been out and about doing something yesterday, I’m sure he would have been happy to answer questions on it,’ the spokesman said.
The PM has branded the strike ‘wrong and unnecessary’ and called for a return to negotiations.
Tory defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood turned up the heat by suggesting the unions were acting as ‘Putin’s friend’.
‘I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government in Europe that is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way,’ he told Sky News.
He added: ‘I say to the unions, please don’t be Putin’s friend. Return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again.’
STRATFORD: Chaos as passengers wait for the station to open in London, as train services continue to be disrupted following the nationwide strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union along with London Underground workers in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions
The TSSA union announced it has accepted the ‘reasonable’ 7.1 per cent offer from Merseyrail – overseen by Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotheram (left). Keir Starmer (pictured at PMQs today) faces a mounting Labour revolt after dozens joined picket lines to show support for industrial action crippling the country
The fallout from the strike was continuing today, with the RMT spreading three days of action across the week to cause maximum pain.
Less than than 20 per cent of services ran yesterday. Nine out of ten services in Scotland were axed as all trains north of Falkirk were cancelled.
Travellers were left stranded or forced to take to congested roads as only five services operated in the Central Belt.
Sir Keir’s aides said he would be making no public comment. A spokesman added: ‘Unlike the Government, our focus is firmly on the public. The Tories are in charge… the responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them.’
Ms Rayner took advantage of the leadership vacuum to make clear she backed the strikes. ‘Workers have been left with no choice,’ she said.
‘No one takes strike action lightly. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work.’
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was photographed backing striking workers north of the border.
Mr Sarwar wrote on Twitter: ‘This is a crisis entirely of the Government’s making. The workers don’t want strikes. The unions don’t want strikes. The public don’t want strikes. They demand better.’
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was not issuing similar orders against joining picket lines to his AMs.
NORTH LONDON: Tube trains stand at Northfields Train Depot as train strikes hit services again
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar met with striking RMT workers outside Edinburgh Waverley station yesterday
Shadow environment minister Alex Sobel was spotted on the RMT picket line yesterday despite Sir Keir’s edict
Sir Keir’s office warned Labour frontbenchers on Monday that they would be disciplined if they joined picket lines outside stations.
But at least four members of his top team ignored the warning, including shadow minister Alex Sobel, Labour whip Navendu Mishra and parliamentary aides Kate Osborne and Paula Barker.
Ms Dhesi told Talk TV last night that he did not receive the edict.
‘I did not receive any email. In fact I got my team to check, to comb through the emails,’ he said.
‘There wasn’t any official memo coming out to the likes of myself. That’s why you would have seen different people doing different things.’
Mr Dhesi said he personally had not gone to a picket line because ‘I was too busy trying to do my job’.
Liverpool MP Kim Johnson told the BBC that Sir Keir had ‘got it wrong’ on the strikes
‘We’re a party that was born out of the trade union movement,’ she said.
‘I think Keir Starmer has got it wrong.’
Simon Fletcher, a former top aide to Sir Keir, told LBC radio that the Labour leader would face a major backlash if he tried to lay down the law, including the possible loss of huge sums of union funding.
Sir Keir already appears to be in retreat, with Labour sources saying that chief whip Alan Campbell will not decide until the weekend whether to impose disciplinary action.
Mr Lynch urged RMT members to inflict more misery tomorrow, saying: ‘Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.’
Wednesday June 22: How trains and Tubes are being hit today
How many trains will run on Wednesday?
Despite being no strike today, only around 60% of the 20,000 normal weekday services will be able to operate.
Why are timetables not returning to normal if there is no strike on Wednesday?
Walkouts by signallers and control room staff who would usually work overnight from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning means trains will leave depots later than normal, delaying the start of services.
How quickly will services ramp up?
In London, services will increase quickly as trains do not have to travel long distances from depots to stations.
It will take several hours in remote locations.
Will services eventually return to normal on Wednesday?
No. Network Rail said that ‘even during the day the service will stay thinner’ than usual and some operators will wind down services slightly earlier than normal.
What other problems are there on the UK rail network this morning?
• Woking (South Western Railway) – points failure
• Tunbridge Wells and Hastings (Southeastern) – signalling fault
• London Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale / Chingford (Greater Anglia; London Overground; Stansted Express) – lineside fire
• Slough and Windsor & Eton Central (Great Western Railway) – broken-down train
• Shoeburyness and Fenchurch Street (c2c) – overcrowding
• Harrow & Wealdstone and Wembley Central (London Overground) – strike action
• Richmond and Stratford (London Overground) – shortage of signalling staff
• Blackburn and Todmorden / Hebden Bridge (Northern) – lineside fire, buses replace trains
Passengers are being told not to expect a ‘normal service’ until mid-morning, with most tube lines shut until 8am because transport staff – including signallers and control room officers – did not work their overnight shifts.
This morning the lines are:
• Bakerloo: Minor delays
• Central: Good service
• Circle: Severe delays
• District: Severe delays
• Hammersmith & City: Severe delays
• Jubilee: Severe delays
• Metropolitan: Severe delays
• Northern: Good service
• Piccadilly: Severe delays
• Victoria: Good service
• Waterloo & City: Good service
• DLR: Good service