Labour justice chief Richard Burgon refuses to condemn union leader's call for illegal strike action

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Labour’s justice spokesman today refused to address threats of illegal strike action against the Government’s pay cap. 

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, ducked questions on whether he would back a potential strike, even if fewer than half of union members vote in a ballot.

Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, has said coordinated strike action is now “very much on the cards”. 

Mr Burgon said the scenario was “hypothetical” and avoided answering questions on the issue five times during a morning BBC radio interview. 

Asked if he backed the threat of strike action, he said: “We should be talking about the reality faced by… nurses, care assistants, fire fighters, and all too often they get written out of this discussion. That is who this is about.” 

Conservative MP Chris Philp said: “For a man who aspires to lead the UK’s justice department, Richard Burgon’s flagrant disregard for the law of the land is deeply troubling but sadly unsurprising.”

Mr Burgon also ducked questions about Mr McCluskey’s call for a second deputy Labour leader. This is widely seen as an attempt to install a Left-wing counterweight to deputy Tom Watson.

Asked by Today show presenter John Humphrys to give a one-word answer on whether there should be another deputy, Mr Burgon said the party was proud of the amount of female representation.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry criticised Mr Humphrys over the interview. She tweeted: “Every answer interrupted and sneered at.”

Tension continued to mount today between moderate and Left-wing party members after a rally of centre-ground activists in Westminster.

More than 200 people turned up to a meeting held by Labour First last night to discuss how the moderate wing of the party will approach Labour’s conference, which will be held in Brighton this month. 

Labour MP John Spellar claimed the Left-wing campaign group Momentum was “trying to create an atmosphere that they are an overwhelming tide”.

He also said it was financially irresponsible for Momentum to encourage constituency parties to send their maximum quota of delegates to conference. 

He said: “If Momentum say they believe there’s going to be an early election then it’s utterly irresponsible to be wasting constituency money to send extra delegates to conference. Constituency funds will be drained.”

Momentum said: “It’s disappointing and strange that Mr Spellar has attacked Labour members and constituency Labour parties for fulfilling one of their key functions and sending delegates to conference.

“When Labour is polling so well and after Momentum made such a contribution during the election, we’d urge Mr Spellar to get behind Jeremy Corbyn and refrain from making divisive comments.”

Today Mr Corbyn is expected to hit out at employers who use technology to deny staff basic protections in the workplace.

The Labour leader will use his address to the Trades Union Congress’s annual conference in Brighton to link the rise of the “gig economy” to worsening mental health.

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