FORMER shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has expressed apparent sympathy with the possibility of a general strike, in the latest sign of growing divisions within Labour over the party’s approach to industrial action and the trade union movement.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union (below, centre), this week warned that “coordinated and synchronised industrial action” would become necessary in order to defeat legislation proposed by Tory leadership contender Liz Truss, who has pledged to curb “militant action” from unions should she replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

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Lynch said: “The proposals by Liz Truss amount to the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871. Truss is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and rob working people of a key democratic right.

“If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the general strike 1926, the suffragettes and Chartism.”

Responding to these remarks, McDonnell – a key member of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet – told Sky News: “If you look at the ballots that are taking place across the trade union movement, we are talking about millions of workers now voting for industrial action. So, naturally, what people are saying as well, why not co-ordinate that?

READ MORE: Mick Lynch to speak in Glasgow - here's when and where to see him

“Well, I support co-ordinated action, because if that results in a decent pay rise for people, they are protected against the cost-of-living crisis. I think that’s the most effective thing to do.”

McDonnell added: “I think mistakes have been made from the very beginning. We need to stand back and actually start trying to secure unity across not just the whole labour and trade union movement, but across the country overall.

"I think Keir and his advisers have completely misread the situation. I think they’ve misread the mood within the labour and trade union movement. But I also think they have misread the mood amongst the general public.”

McDonnell’s intervention comes amidst mounting anger from the trade union movement over Labour leader Keir Starmer’s sacking of shadow transport minister Sam Tarry (below) after he joined striking RMT workers on the picket line.

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Although Starmer has maintained that Tarry was sacked for making unauthorised media appearances and “making up policy on the hoof” by arguing that pay rises should be in line with inflation, McDonnell added his voice to the growing chorus criticising the decision.

McDonnell said: “I don’t know who is advising Keir Starmer, but this is a completely unnecessary row that’s been invented just at a time when the Tories are tearing themselves apart, and we’ve got the maximum opportunity I think to gain an advantage in the polls that will build the support to take us into a government.”

Speaking to The National, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer did not explicitly endorse the possibility of a general strike, but commented: “It’s abundantly clear that across the country, workers are collectivising in concerted action. Our movement makes no apologies for supporting industrial action, from all workplaces and all sectors of the economy, against employers who simply won’t stand by their workforce during this cost-of-living emergency.

“Our focus is on supporting those workers to secure the basic standard of living they deserve and demand. That is where we intend to direct our energy in the weeks and months ahead.”