Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday did not fire any of the four frontbench rebels who defied his orders by joining striking rail workers on the picket line after he was warned off the move.
The Labour leader discussed possible disciplinary action with the party chief whip, Alan Campbell, but no sackings had been announced by Wednesday evening.
It came after Simon Fletcher, a former senior adviser to two Labour leaders, warned Sir Keir that there would be a “huge explosion” if MPs who joined the picket line were punished.
The Labour leader could face a new wave of rebellious MPs on Thursday with the second day of nationwide rail strikes taking place. A third day of industrial action is due on Saturday.
Ahead of Tuesday’s strike Sir Keir wrote to all of his shadow cabinet urging them not to join the picket line, with the message expected to be passed on to MPs in their teams.
Yet four Labour MPs with frontbench roles – meaning they were given shadow government jobs by Sir Keir – ended up defying those orders to appear on the picket lines.
The four rebels were Kate Osborne, a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to shadow Northern Ireland secretary; Paula Barker, a PPS to shadow defence secretary; Navendu Mishra, Labour whip responsible for keeping discipline in the party; and Alex Sobel, a shadow environment minister.
In total more than 20 Labour MPs joined picket lines on Tuesday, as well as Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader.
Sir Keir had not talked to any of the four frontbenchers by lunchtime on Wednesday. A decision is expected to be made only after Thursday’s two by-elections.
A Labour spokesman said Mr Campbell would make a decision on what will happen to the frontbenchers in the “next few days”.
The spokesman would not be drawn on what form any action might take, but said “the chief whip is aware of Keir’s wishes”.
“I think 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,” the spokesman added.
The Labour leader is attempting to balance the party’s traditional support of and ties to the trade union movement with his public stance that the strikes should not be going ahead.
Mr Starmer has sought to move the Labour Party towards the centre ground after he took over the leadership from Jeremy Corbyn in April 2020.
Sir Keir had been silent on the strikes on Tuesday, choosing not to issue a single public comment – either via TV appearance, social media post, speech or press release.
His spokesman defended the decision, arguing that Sir Keir had outlined his position a number of times in the preceding days, including in a speech on Sunday.
Mr Fletcher, who had advised Mr Corbyn and Ed Miliband, both former Labour leaders, warned Sir Keir of the fierce reaction that could follow disciplining MPs for attending the picket lines.
Mr Fletcher told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr: “There would be (a) huge explosion if there was disciplinary action threatened against people.”
Labour MPs privately described the picket-line ban to the Guardian as “imbecilic”, “pointless” and “dumb”.
Boris Johnson criticised the Labour leader’s nuanced position on the strikes, saying Sir Keir’s party was “backing the strikers while we back the strivers”.
The Prime Minister said: “What we have got to do is modernise our railways.
“It is a disgrace, when we are planning to make sure that you don’t have ticket offices that sell fewer than one ticket per hour, that he yesterday had 25 Labour MPs out on the picket lines.”
Sir Keir responded: “The Prime Minister of this country and his Transport Secretary haven’t attended a single meeting, held a conversation or lifted a finger to stop these strikes.”
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )