A member of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet has resigned, in the latest round of internal ructions which have dominated the party conference.
Andy McDonald MP announced his resignation yesterday during the party’s conference in Brighton, in a statement which criticised Starmer for failing to honour pledges he made to the party membership.
Who is Andy McDonald?
The MP for Middlesbrough has been a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet team since January 2016, when he was appointed as Shadow Minister for Rail by Jeremy Corbyn.
McDonald was seen by many as the last member of the current shadow cabinet to have been a strong ally of Corbyn.
Starmer appointed him as Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections in April 2020.
Prior to becoming an MP in 2012, McDonald worked as a solicitor supporting serious injury claims made by members of the armed forces.
He was a founding member of the British Royal Legion’s Solicitors Group.
Why did he resign?
Announcing the decision on Twitter, McDonald said he resigned as he could not follow a request from the leader’s office to argue against a £15 minimum wage and statutory sick pay at the living wage rate.
“This is something I could not do,” Mr McDonald wrote.
“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 frontbench 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 that you made to the membership are not being honoured. This is just the latest of many.”
Was the resignation staged?
Some within Labour have claimed that the move was coordinated to disrupt shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’ policy announcement yesterday, as part of ongoing factional battles in the party.
Following his resignation over the £15 per hour minimum wage dispute, many people have highlighted Keir Starmer’s support for striking McDonalds workers and members of the British Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) prior to taking over the leadership.
Many on the left of the party see Angela Rayner as the natural candidate to represent them in a leadership contest should one occur, but reports suggest Rayner was not on board with McDonald’s decision.
Reeves used her conference speech to announce major plans to spend £250 billion over eight years in the fight against climate change.
A Labour source told NationalWorld that Rayner was ‘angry’ with McDonald over his decision to resign, over fears it could damage her work on industrial policy.
What did Keir Starmer say?
Responding to the letter, Starmer released a statement which 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.”