Andy McDonald has been accused of sabotage after his resignation as shadow employment secretary plunged the Labour party conference into disarray.
McDonald – described as the last Corbynite in Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet – quit over the leadership’s failure to support a £15-per-hour minimum wage with a damning claim the party is “more divided than ever”.
The shock announcement stole the spotlight from Rachel Reeves’ keynote speech to conference that outlined Labour’s economic plans. The shadow chancellor promised £28 billion per year spending to tackle the climate crisis, and pledged to be “the UK’s first green chancellor” – spending £224 billion on climate measures over the next eight years.
However, McDonald seized the headlines with a resignation letter revealing Starmer’s office had asked him to oppose the call for a £15-per-hour minimum wage in a meeting with the trade unions Aslef and Unite.
“This is something I could not do,” wrote McDonald, adding that while he had been promised Starmer would “maintain” Labour’s “commitment to socialist policies”, he had concluded that “the movement is more divided than ever and the pledges that you [Starmer] made to the membership are not being honoured”.
‘Pathetic, orchestrated attempt to undermine’
McDonald told the BBC his resignation was on a “point of principle” and he denied it was orchestrated or political – a claim given short shrift by opponents in the party.
“This is clearly a pathetic orchestrated attempt to undermine the changes happening in the party,” said a senior Labour official, quoted in the Guardian. “We won’t be losing any sleep over this attempt at sabotaging Labour conference.”
Unions scupper CLP’s bid for PR
The left of the Labour party’s anger was up after Starmer managed to get through his controversial rule changes for leadership elections and reforms – with union backing.
The unions then scuppered an attempt by constituency Labour parties (CLPs) to axe first-past-the-post voting in favour of proportional representation (PR). The motion was submitted by more than 150 local parties and is the second most popular issue for the conference in Brighton. In the hall on Monday (September 28), a card vote showed almost 80% of CLPs backed the motion, but 95% of the votes from affiliates (mostly unions) were against the call for PR, which was sunk with a total 58% against.
Labour’s fall-out at conference could not have come at a more opportune time for a government embattled by multiple and deepening crises.
The Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden jumped at the chance to comment on something other than the fuel and supply-chain crisis borne from Brexit, and said that Labour were “divided and fighting among themselves”.
The minister without portfolio added: “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?”