Has Keir Starmer sounded the death knell of the Labour Party after more than 120 years?

Following his removal of Sam Tarry as shadow transport minister, Starmer’s anti-strike position is clearer than ever. By sacking Tarry for joining the picket line, he has signalled to the unions that that the Labour Party is no longer their voice within the British government.

But has Sir Keir shot himself in the foot? Labour is still vastly funded by unions: In 2019, the party received 93 per cent of its election funding from its union backers – if they pull their support, will Labour kick the bucket?

Following Starmer taking the reins from Jeremy Corbyn in 2020, and a drift – or, rather, scarper – back towards the centre, more than 100,000 members have already left the party.

Labour has also seen funding from Unite, its main union backer, reduced since 2020, with Sharon Graham, the union’s general-secretary, having cut “affiliation fees” to labour by 10 per cent.

Legal challenges involving party members has also deterred Labour donors, with Labour having spent £2m a year on legal fees – more than it spends on political campaigning.

A party source told Reaction that donors “don’t want money spent on a legal fight.”

With Labour seemingly indicating that it won’t support striking workers this summer, it’s possible that unions could continue to cut their funding or withdraw it altogether.

According to a Labour Party spokesperson, however, “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.”

Tarry’s removal from the frontbench “isn’t about appearing on a picket line,” the party spokesperson said, “Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.”

“Any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously,” they added.

To the unions though, this is just an excuse. Yesterday, Tarry told LBC’s Ben Kentish that he had received seven phone calls from union general secretaries who were “absolutely fuming,” and “on a direct collision course with the Labour Party leadership.”

The TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said last night that Tarry – who was TSSA political officer before becoming an MP – “did the right thing.”

“If [Labour] think can win the next general election while pushing away seven million trade union members, they are deluded,” Cortes added.

With the Liberal Democrats on the rise, a post-election deal between Labour and the SNP firmly off the table, and the revived Social Democratic Party hoping to field 60 candidates at the next election, Labour voters could be jumping ship more than ever before.

If the unions decide to cut their ties to the party, could this be the end of Labour as we know it?