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Burnham backs rail strikes, warns Starmer to be clear on what Labour stands for

ANDY BURNHAM has endorsed rail strikes planned for next week and called on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to be clear on what the party stands for. 

Distancing himself from the Labour leadership, the Manchester mayor spoke out on Wednesday in support of the right of the RMT union to strike. 

Sir Keir has faced criticism for failing to support the walkout and opposing industrial action — shadow health secretary Wes Streeting was forced to apologise in a shadow cabinet meeting for publicly supporting the strikers.

The move has led to the Labour Party facing questions over its position.

Mr Burnham said Labour shouldn’t “fall into the trap” of criticising striking rail staff and condemned the government for attempts to “demonise” workers. 

He called it “entirely right” for RMT to stage the three-day strike next week in their bid to win an argument over redundancies and pay. 

“I will never be the kind of politician that criticises anybody for fighting for their income, for their family, to pay the rent,” he said.

“It’s entirely their right in difficult times to do that.”

Mr Burhnam, who has twice run for the leadership of the Labour Party, didn’t rule out another bid for the position. 

He also put Sir Keir under pressure to make changes as leader.

“There can’t be much further delay now in saying ‘this is what we are about’ so that people can get the sense of where the next Labour government would go,” Mr Burnham said. 

“That really does have to happen at the annual conference in Liverpool. I would have said it should have started more last year.”

On Wednesday, government ministers were accused of “dereliction of duty” after Labour said they had not met the rail workers’ leaders for three months ahead of the strikes. 

Mr Burnham said: “There’s a thought in my mind that they [the government] actually want these strikes, like they wanted the controversy about the Rwanda plane.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also accused the government yesterday of “inciting” one of next week’s rail strikes.

He claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were “whipping up” division over a funding deal for Transport for London.

The strikes are planned for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week. 

A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said it was in the hands of the unions to call off the strikes.

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