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Sir Keir Starmer is accused of ‘sneering’ at Coventry and faces demands to apologise after showing ‘contempt’ for the city by ‘scoffing’ in interview about bin driver strike action
- Keir Starmer accused of ‘sneering’ at Coventry in comments about strike action
- Senior Conservative figures have demanded Sir Keir apologise over comments
- The row relates to a pay dispute between bin drivers and Coventry City Council
Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls to apologise after the Labour leader was accused of ‘sneering’ at the city of Coventry.
Sir Keir yesterday commented on ongoing local industrial action which has seen refuse collection drivers strike because of a pay dispute with Labour-run Coventry City Council.
Unite the union has threatened to withdraw funding from the Labour Party unless Sir Keir backs the workers on strike.
But Sir Keir told BBC Radio CWR that ‘I don’t think an industrial dispute in Coventry should influence relations between the Labour Party and its trade unions’.
Sir Keir appeared to scoff when he said the word ‘Coventry’ in a moment which has sparked a furious backlash, particularly from his Conservative critics who have demanded an apology.
Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls to apologise after the Labour leader was accused of ‘sneering’ at the city of Coventry
Refuse collection workers in Coventry have been on strike since the end of January, with the pay dispute having rumbled on for months.
The row has prompted rising tensions between Unite and the Labour Party, raising questions over the union’s long term financial support for Sir Keir.
Unite is Labour’s biggest union donor and General Secretary Sharon Graham recently said: ‘Let me be very clear – the remaining financial support of the Labour Party is now under review.’
But Sir Keir told the BBC last week that Labour ‘is not going to be influenced by threats from anybody, whoever they are and that is just an absolute matter of principle’.
The Labour leader was asked yesterday about the Coventry bin strikes and said: ‘In relation to the strike, it is obviously industrial action and what I want to see is what pretty well everybody wants to see which is an end to the dispute.
‘That is only going to happen if both sides are talking. They are talking at the moment and I hope that resolves the issue because that is the best thing in relation to this industrial dispute and most industrial disputes.
‘On the funding, I don’t think an industrial dispute in Coventry should influence relations between the Labour Party and its trade unions, its affiliated trade unions.
‘So it is very important I make that clear as well.’
The way in which Sir Keir said ‘Coventry’ prompted fury on social media, with Twitter users claiming the ‘contempt in his voice was obvious’ and accusing him of being ‘dismissive’ of the city.
Councillor Gary Ridley, the leader of Coventry Conservative Group, accused Sir Keir of showing ‘sneering contempt for Coventry & the good people who live here’.
Unite the union has threatened to withdraw funding from the Labour Party unless Sir Keir backs refuse collection workers in Coventry who are on strike. The Labour leader is pictured yesterday during a visit to Erdington in Birmingham
Tory figures have demanded an apology from Sir Keir as they accused him of showing ‘contempt’ for Coventry
He tweeted: ‘The more I watch this the more offended I am @Keir_Starmer. Your metropolitan unconscious bias shines through. You treat our city with total contempt.’
He added: ‘I’m calling on @Keir_Starmer to apologise for his offensive remarks about our city. Just say sorry then we can move on.’
Coventry Conservatives tweeted: ‘Say that again Sir Keir? Our proud city is not a laughing stock.
‘But maybe to the London elite Labour has come to represent, what does Coventry matter to them?’