Tom Watson: Laura Smith got 'carried away' calling for a general strike

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

MP Laura Smith got “carried away” in calling for a general strike, says deputy Labour leader Tom Watson.

Speaking to a meeting of the Socialist Campaign Group at the Momentum festival on the fringe of the Labour conference in Liverpool, Ms Smith said: "Today we've heard calls for a true people's vote. A general election.

"Comrades, we must topple this cruel and callous Tory Government as soon as we can. And if we can't get a general election, we should organise with our brothers and sisters in the trade unions to bring an end to this Government with a general strike."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Watson said: "Well, it's not particularly helpful, but she is a new MP and she was at a big fringe event - nothing to do with the party organisation - and I'm sure she got a little bit carried away."

Tory MPs criticised her words, with Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis saying: "Labour have shown their true colours. A General Strike would cause havoc, hitting workers and families hard and harming our economy and people's livelihoods.

"Labour have learnt nothing from the past and just like last time, would wreck the economy and leave ordinary people worse off."

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon gave the speech a standing ovation, but said he was not calling for a general strike and that it was “not supported by the TUC”.

An eight-day general strike co-ordinated by the Trades Union Congress took place in support of coal miners in 1926.

The Conservative government of Stanley Baldwin remained in power, although the strike had not expressly intended to unseat him.

A general strike today would need the major unions to take co-operative action in organising a mass walkout.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, no general election is due to be held until 2022.