Andy McDonald quits shadow cabinet with scathing attack on Keir Starmer

27 September 2021, 17:46 | Updated: 28 September 2021, 00:20

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A Labour MP has resigned from the shadow cabinet with a scathing attack on Sir Keir Starmer.

Andy McDonald said the Labour Party was "more divided than ever" and accused Sir Keir of failing to honour pledges to members.

In a letter, he said he was quitting as shadow employment rights and protections secretary following the Labour leader's failure to back a £15 minimum wage and statutory sick pay at the living wage.

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He claimed he had been told by Sir Keir's office to go into a meeting on Sunday to argue against them, but added: "This is something I could not do."

He insisted: "After many months of a pandemic when we made commitments to stand by key workers, I cannot now look these 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."

Continuing his attack, Mr McDonald said: "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 eighteen 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."

In response to the dramatic 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."

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray described the move as "deliberate sabotage".

He told LBC: "It's frustrating for us but it lets the country down and Keir Starmer's speech on Wednesday is supposed to be a forward-looking, future-looking speech that resolves the issues of the country and we're talking about self-indulgent words of individual members of the shadow cabinet."

He added: "I have no idea why Andy McDonald resigned because his resignation letter seems quite different from what he's now telling the media, and on a policy that he signed off.

"People can make up their own mind here but the bottom line is the Labour Party needs to stop this self-indulgence."

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves earlier told a conference fringe event she was unaware of the resignation.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana called Sir Keir and Labour's leadership "shameful" over the circumstances that led Mr McDonald to quit.

The MP told a rally: "Andy has resigned from the shadow cabinet, explaining in a letter that the party leadership ordered him, and I quote, to 'argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour, and against statutory sick pay at a living wage'.

"How shameful."

She said there was a "Blairite clique running the show" and told Labour's left to continue to push for their policies.

Former Labour frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey told a rally that she was "speechless... because if it's true that we were saying that we shouldn't advocate for statutory sick pay at the rate of the living wage, then what is the point of the Labour Party?"