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John McDonnell calls on Keir Starmer to support strikes ‘when necessary’

John McDonnell at a rally outside London’s King’s Cross Station during a rail strike in June (Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA)
John McDonnell at a rally outside London’s King’s Cross Station during a rail strike in June (Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA)

Labour should support industrial action “when necessary” to help people who are struggling, John McDonnell has said.

The former shadow chancellor on Friday said he hoped Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer would “realise actually the public mood is that people need support now”.

Sir Keir has said Labour must move from being a “party of protest” to one that can win an election in order to help working people.

The Labour leader has said he supports people’s right to strike, but previously banned frontbenchers from joining strikers on picket lines.

He faced a backlash from unions and the left wing of his party over his decision to sack Sam Tarry from the front bench after he gave broadcast interviews from a picket line.

Mr McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I think out there now you are seeing millions of people taking industrial action, many of them never taking industrial action before, because they are desperate and they are looking to a Government and to a Labour leadership as well to support them.

“I am hoping that Keir Starmer will realise actually the public mood is that people need support now to get them through this crisis and Labour should be at the forefront of that support.

“That means, yes, supporting industrial action when necessary.”

The former shadow chancellor backed a 10% pay rise for all public sector workers in order to avoid future strikes.

“I think that is the only way we can protect them sinking into – in some instances – poverty,” he said.

Pressed about how to pay for the increases, the Hayes and Harlington MP said: “My view is we should follow what the Conservatives did in the 1950s in a similar crisis where they introduced an excess profits tax so that then you had the money coming in to enable people to have decent wages and proper public services.”

Earlier this week, Sir Keir unveiled Labour’s “fully costed” £29 billion plan to freeze the energy price cap at the current level of £1,971 for six months from October, saving the average household £1,000.