independent– Keir Starmer has been hit by a shadow cabinet resignation in the middle of his party conference after a row over minimum wage policy.
Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary of state for employment rights, said on Monday afternoon his position was “untenable” and that he could no longer work with Sir Keir.
In his resignation letter Mr McDonald said Sir Keir’s office had “instructed” him “to go into a meeting to argue against a National Minimum Wage of £15 an hour and against Statutory Sick Pay at the living wage”.
Mr McDonald said this was “something I could not do”.
The resignation is a blow for the Labour leader who was hoping to turn the page on a row with the party’s left wing that characterised the first part of the conference.
Sir Keir was defeated on plans to end one member one vote for Labour leadership elections but narrowly passed changes to Labour rules that would make it harder for MPs with less support from their colleagues to get on the ballot.
Mr McDonald said: “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.
“We live in a time when the people of this country have a renewed awareness of how important the work done by millions of low-paid workers truly is. To have the Labour Party, the party of working people, fail to realise that is a bitter blow.
“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.
“I am immensely proud of the work my team has done to produce Labour’s Employment Rights Green Paper, which was unveiled earlier this week. I will continue working with comrades across the movement to ensure that this agenda is delivered.
“I look forward to being free to fight for the working people of this country from the backbenches.”