As his own troops defied him, the leader’s desperate attempts to avoid taking a side in the crippling industrial action were mocked.
On the picket lines were shadow environment minister Alex Sobel, Kate Osborne, an aide to shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle, and Whip Navendu Mishra. Paula Barker, a member of the defense team’s aide, also posed to show her support.
Meanwhile, Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, was photographed in support of striking workers north of the border.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, stated that he was not issuing similar orders to his members of parliament.
Angela Rayner inflamed the situation even more by tweeting that rail workers had “no choice” but to strike.
The party’s union bosses have reacted angrily to Sir Keir’s decision to prohibit frontbenchers from showing solidarity with rail workers outside stations, demanding that he ‘takes the side of workers.’
Sir Keir did not even tweet about the strike today, and it is believed that he will make a decision on disciplinary action after the strike is over.
‘That’s a matter for the whips and for Keir Starmer,’ shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden said when asked if people would be punished.
‘What is Keir Starmer going to do, remove Anas as leader?’ said former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.
Thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union from Network Rail and 13 train operators are on strike today, Thursday and Saturday, in the worst rail strike in a generation.
On strike days, only about one out of every five trains is expected to run, and only for about 11 hours, with warnings that vital medical procedures and exams will be disrupted.
The RMT and Unite are also staging a 24-hour strike on the London Underground, which will cause major disruption.
Ministers and train companies claim to have offered a 4% pay package, with 1% linked to productivity gains, and Boris Johnson has warned that higher pay increases would simply fuel inflation.
The RMT, on the other hand, is adamant that 7% is the absolute minimum it will accept.
In a leaked memo from Sir Keir’s office, it was stated that shadow cabinet members’should not be on picket lines,’ and that they should remind team members of this.
However, Labour MP Ian Lavery was one of many who boasted about his support for today’s strikes.
‘Solidarity with the @RMT today and every day,’ he wrote alongside a photo of himself on Morpeth picket lines.
‘Workers have been left with no choice,’ Ms Rayner wrote. Strike action is not taken lightly. For the sake of workplace fairness, I will always defend their absolute right to do so.
‘The Prime Minister must take responsibility for his own actions.’ This was brought about by his government. They must now solve the problem.’
‘No inhibition exists on members of my group demonstrating their support for the trade union movement,’ Mr Drakeford said in the Senedd when asked if he was ordering AMs not to join pickets.
He did admit, however, that Sir Keir was in a “very different position” and that he had to prevent the Conservatives from portraying the situation as “somehow an example of the country returning to days that have been left far behind.”
‘Nothing to see here, just a Labour whip joining a picket line as millions of people’s lives are disrupted,’ Tory chair Oliver Dowden tweeted in response to Mr Mishra’s photograph. This is exactly what we mean when we say these are Labour’s strikes.’
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, reacted angrily to reports about the leaked memo.
‘The Labour Party was founded by trade unions, and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers through their words and actions,’ she said. It says a lot when Labour MPs are told not to join workers on picket lines.
‘You don’t lead by hiding. No-one respects that. It’s time to decide whose side you are on. Workers or bad bosses?’
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: ‘This is ridiculous nonsense from the party which was created by trade unions. Solidarity is what our movement is all about.’
The memo, seen by Politics Home, said frontbenchers should ‘expect severe disruption this week as the result of industrial action by the RMT’.
‘We have robust lines. We do not want to see these strikes to go ahead with the resulting disruption to the public. The government have failed to engage in any negotiations,’ it said.
‘However, we also must show leadership and to that end, please be reminded that frontbenchers including (parliamentary private secretaries) should not be on picket lines.
‘Please speak to all the members of your team to remind them of this and confirm with me that you have done so.’