Blow for Keir Starmer as Andy McDonald QUITS shadow cabinet complaining that leader would not back £15 an hour minimum wage – as Jeremy Corbyn accuses his successor of ‘propping up’ the wealthy and powerful
Keir Starmer suffered repeated blows to his authority from the Labour left today as Andy McDonald quit his shadow cabinet complaining that the leader would not back a £15 an hour minimum wage.
The shadow employment secretary – who also served under Jeremy Corbyn – said his position had been made ‘untenable’ by Sir Keir’s refusal to support the dramatic hike.
He said he had been ordered to go into a meeting yesterday arguing that the party could not endorse the higher minimum wage and statutory sick pay.
Mr McDonald was seen as a close ally of Mr Corbyn, and his departure comes amid growing anger on the Left of the party. He is not thought to have given the leadership any warning of his intentions.
The frontbencher’s explosive departure came as the former Labour leader carried out his own excoriating attack on his successor.
Mr Corbyn used an op-ed in the i newspaper to accuse Sir Keir and his top team of working to ‘prop up, not challenge … wealth and power’.
Sir Keir has pushed through rules making it harder for Corbynite activists to trigger deselection votes for MPs, and raising the number of nominations that a left-winger would need to stand for the leadership in future.
There have also been bruising clashes between moderates and the Left over Angela Rayner’s extraordinary description of Tories as ‘scum’.
Sir Keir has rebuked his deputy – who has her own electoral mandate from members – but she has flatly refused to apologise.
And McDonald said his position had been made ‘untenable’ by Sir Keir’s refusal to support the dramatic hike.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: ‘Andy McDonald has been a terrific Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights’
Mr McDonald wrote: ‘Yesterday your office instructed me to go into a meeting to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 per hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage. This is something I could not do.
‘After many months of a pandemic when we made commitments to stand by key workers I cannot now look those same workers in the eye and tell them they are not worth a wage that is enough to live on, or that they don’t deserve security when they are ill.’
He added: ‘I joined your front bench team on the basis of the pledges that you made in the leadership campaign to bring about unity within the party and maintain our commitment to socialist policies.
‘After 18 months of your leadership our movement is more divided than ever and the pledges you made to the membership are not being honoured. This is just the latest of many.’
The dramatic announcement seemed to blindside the leader and other senior figures. Asked for her reaction at a fringe event, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: ‘I wasn’t aware that Andy McDonald had resigned from the shadow cabinet but I would like to pay tribute to Andy for the work that he has done with Angela Rayner on workplace rights which were announced at conference on Sunday which was about giving rights to workers on day one, paternity leave, flexible working, to end fire and rehire, to increase the national minimum wage and so much more.
‘So I pay tribute to Andy for the work that he has done in the shadow cabinet in bringing forward those really important policies which make a big difference to working people.’
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: ‘Andy McDonald has been a terrific Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights.
‘He’s just delivered the most comprehensive and detailed policy programme for securing employment rights in our history. He has resigned on a point of principle that workers should have decent pay.’
Mr McDonnell has also insisted Sir Keir should ‘assess his future’ if his conference speech on Wednesday does not start to revive Labour’s fortunes.
‘I think if Keir gets the speech right on Wednesday, he can lift everyone’s spirits and go further. If he doesn’t, and we’re not lifting in the polls, Keir is a sensible enough person to actually sit down and assess his own future,’ he told Times Radio.
Asked what ‘assess his own future’ meant, Mr McDonnell said: ‘I think he’ll look at what he contribution he can make in the future.’
Mr McDonnell also called for Jeremy Corbyn to be readmitted back into the parliamentary party.
He has been stripped of the whip by Sir Keir for failing to apologise over the handling of anti-Semitism among activists during his leadership, although he has now been readmitted to the party.
‘I was suggesting to those people around Keir that before this conference, he could be really magnanimous and give Jeremy back the whip. And that would really send a message to unite us all. He hasn’t done that. So I’m hoping they actually start talking and resolve this matter,’ Mr McDonnell said.
The resignation is a blow for Sir Keir (pictured at conference today) as he tries to show he has a grip on the Labour Party
‘My advice to Keir is that I would have Jeremy out there campaigning on behalf of the party, all we could, particularly amongst young people, and on issues like the environment and others, he’s got such a good reputation. And he’s built up an expertise as well. So why not use that resource rather than excluded from the party?’
But Mr Corbyn did not help his chances of readmittance with criticism of the leadership this afternoon.
In an i newspaper article he said: ‘So far this week, Labour’s leaders have shown they want to prop up, not challenge … wealth and power.
‘There is another way forward, that is based on social justice, and in the policies the majority of people actually want, not what the establishment and its media mouthpieces insist they should want.
‘All over the world people are thirsting for massive social change – we should be part of that global movement, not apart from it.
‘If our leadership won’t champion that path, our movement must and will.’
Tory Party chairman Oliver Dowden seized on the resignation, tweeting: ‘At #Lab21 Labour are divided and fighting among themselves. Now they are even resigning during their own party conference!
‘Labour’s conference gets more chaotic by the minute. How can people trust them to run the country?’
In response to Mr McDonald’s resignation, Sir Keir said: ‘I want to thank Andy for his service in the shadow cabinet.
‘Labour’s comprehensive new deal for working people shows the scale of our ambition and where our priorities lie.
‘My focus and that of the whole party is on winning the next general election so we can deliver for working people who need a Labour government.’