Labour’s annual conference erupted into infighting as a Shadow Cabinet member quit in a row over the minimum wage
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Labour’s civil war has been dramatically reignited after one of the last Shadow Cabinet members from Jeremy Corbyn’s era resigned.
Furious recriminations flew at the party conference in Brighton after Shadow Employment Rights Secretary Andy McDonald quit last night – saying Keir Starmer told him to block a £15 minimum wage.
Ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Mr Starmer of wanting to “prop up” wealth and power while ex-Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell branded the conference a “s***show”.
But Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray branded the move “deliberate sabotage”, saying Mr McDonald had signed off Labour’s policy of at least a £10 minimum himself.
As Starmer allies pointed the finger at John McDonnell for helping arrange the resignation, Mr Murray told LBC: “Does it seem orchestrated? You’ll have to ask Andy McDonald.”
And sources branded Mr McDonald’s resignation “amateurish”, as he did not tell key shadow ministers before sending his letter.
The row will come to a head tonight when delegates vote on a grassroots motion calling on Labour to back a “£15 per hour statutory minimum wage”.
Shadow Cabinet member Nick Thomas-Symonds today said Labour can “assess” a £15 minimum but only before an election.
Cheers of “come on Andy” greeted Mr McDonald last night as he took to the stage at a rally organised by Tribune magazine.
Mr McDonald told the crowd it had been a “torrid day”, and added: “It’s been a really difficult thing for me to do.”
He argued a £10 minimum wage at least was first proposed in 2014 and was not enough to honour the work of key workers during Covid.
The left-winger is scheduled to appear at a discussion at the fringes of the conference in Brighton on Tuesday with former leader, and ally, Jeremy Corbyn.
The row threatens to overshadow the message the wider shadow cabinet wishes to present, with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth announcing that a Labour government would double dementia spending.
He will also accuse the Government under the Tories of creating a two-tier health system that is threatening a universal NHS.
Labour also wants to present itself as being tough on crime and its causes when shadow health secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds presents a plan to “bring back neighbourhood policing”.
Mr Starmer thanked Mr McDonald for his work and said his focus is on “winning the next general election ” as he sought to move on from the resignation of a member of his top team.
But the leader is expected to come under further questioning over the row, with the Tories seeking to present it as Labour being “divided and fighting among themselves”.
In his resignation letter, Mr McDonald wrote: “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.”
Labour sources suggested there was no sense of loss in Mr Starmer’s office over the resignation.
But veteran MP Diane Abbott, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, accused Mr Starmer of not listening to his party.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Starmer’s problem is some of his advisers… We only have to look at Peter Mandelson’s life and times to understand where he stands with regard to the wealthy and powerful.”
She added: “[Keir] needs to be listening to his party, and the grassroots, a bit more.”
Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana said: “Labour should proudly champion a £15 minimum wage & liveable sick pay — central demands of key workers.
“It’s disgraceful that @AndyMcDonaldMP was forced to resign after being order to argue against this. Solidarity Andy!”