'Get a grip': Tory MP widely ridiculed for blaming rail strikes on Labour

·4-min read
A general view of an empty platform at Paddington Station in London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.
An almost deserted platform at Paddington Station in London as a nationwide rail strike grips Britain. (PA)

A Tory MP has been told to "get a grip" as he was criticised for blaming this week's rail strikes on the Labour Party.

Britain's transport was brought to its knees on Tuesday in the first of a three-day walkout planned this week.

It is expected that only one in five normal trains will run while rail workers, who are demanding a pay rise to match the increase in the cost of living, go on strike.

But the blame game for the strike action is already well underway while commuters are left stranded and unable to get to work.

Read more: Labour MPs join rail workers on picket line as walkout begins

Closed gates at King's Cross St Pancras station in London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike along with London Underground workers in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.
Closed gates at King's Cross St Pancras station in London on Tuesday. (PA)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 21 A view inside Central Station on June 21, 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. The biggest rail strikes in 30 years started on Monday night with trains cancelled across the UK for much of the week. The action is being taken by Network Rail employees plus onboard and station staff working for 13 train operators across England. Thousands of jobs are at risk in maintenance roles and ticket office closures were planned as well as pay freezes during the cost of living crisis, says the RMT union. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The biggest rail strikes in Britain for 30 years are underway. (Getty Images)

The Labour Party has accused the government of mismanaging the transport network and of doing nothing to help employers and the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union reach a settlement.

About 40,000 workers have walked out as the union called for a 7% pay rise for staff to keep up with the highest inflation levels for 40 years after it hit 9% last month.

Strikes affecting Network Rail and 13 train operators are set to continue on Thursday and Saturday.

But the government has hit back, with many Tory MPs blaming Labour for the strikes.

Several Labour MPs did join striking workers on picket lines on Tuesday, despite an internal memo from the party's leader, Sir Keir Starmer, calling for frontbenchers not to do so.

However, Mark Jenkinson, the Conservative MP for Workington, was met with ridicule on Twitter after he said reports of students sleeping on the floors of their friends' homes to avoid the strike and get to exams was "a vision of Labour's Britain".

Watch: Labour say it's irresponsible to add fuel to rail dispute

Labour's Sam Tarry, shadow minister for local transport, tweeted in reply: "Get a grip."

He added: "After 12 years of Tory rule, these rail strikes and its effects are your anti-worker government's fault, no one else's."

Several other Labour MPs criticised Jenkinson by pointing out that the Conservative Party has been in power since 2010.

Christian Wakeford, the Labour MP for Bury South, tweeted: "We have quite literally had a Conservative prime minister for over 4,000 days.

"Twelve years of failed government and somehow still blaming Labour for your shambles."

Alex Sobel, Labour and Co-operative MP for Leeds North West, said on Twitter: "Take some responsibility for your own government’s failures."

Josh Babarinde, the Liberal Democrats' candidate for MP in Eastbourne, responded to Jenkinson by saying: "I’d respectfully say that this is literally happening under a Conservatives government."

However, Oliver Dowden, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, pointed out that Labour Party whip Navendu Mishra had joined workers on the picket line.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JUNE 21 A view inside Central Station on June 21, 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland. The biggest rail strikes in 30 years started on Monday night with trains cancelled across the UK for much of the week. The action is being taken by Network Rail employees plus onboard and station staff working for 13 train operators across England. Thousands of jobs are at risk in maintenance roles and ticket office closures were planned as well as pay freezes during the cost of living crisis, says the RMT union. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A view inside Central Station in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Dowden tweeted: "Nothing to see here, just a Labour whip joining a picket line as millions of people have their lives disrupted. When we say these are Labour’s strikes, this is exactly what we mean."

And the official Conservative Party Twitter account wrote: "First Labour failed to condemn the strikes. Now they're literally on the picket lines backing the chaos."

Chris Clarkson, the Tory MP for Heywood and Middleton, tweeted simply: "Cheers Keir".

But his tweet was met with a barrage of criticism, with Toby Perkins, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, accusing him of "idiocy".

Speaking to his cabinet on Tuesday, prime minister Boris Johnson warned commuters they must be ready to "stay the course", saying the strikes are “so wrong and so unnecessary”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast he does not meet unions, describing calls for him to join them around the negotiating table as a “stunt”.

Read more: Tory donor pays £120k to have dinner with Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.
Prime minister Boris Johnson addressing his cabinet about the rail strikes on Tuesday. (PA)
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside King's Cross St Pancras station in London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike along with London Underground workers in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside King's Cross St Pancras station in London on Tuesday. (PA)

He said: “I don’t typically meet with them because it’s a red herring.

“If I thought there was a one in a million chance it would make a slightest bit of difference, of course I would do so at the drop of the hat.”

But Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT union, accused Shapps of “spouting nonsense” with plans to allow agency staff to step in for striking workers.

Lynch criticised the proposed change in the law, which would allow flexible workers, including agency staff, to cover for those on strike. Shapps said the legislation change could be introduced within months.

Watch: Boris Johnson urges passengers to 'stay the course' over rail strikes

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting