Labour’s fragile unity was shattered in the middle of its annual conference as Andy McDonald quit the Shadow Cabinet in a row over the minimum wage
Keir Starmer has come under attack from the Labour left for going back on his leadership pledges as Andy McDonald’s resignation shattered the party’s fragile unity.
John McDonnell accused the Labour leader of breaking his promises to the members as the party’s annual conference descended into infighting.
Former leader Jeremy Corbyn also lashed out at his successor who he accused of seeking to prop up those with wealth and power.
Labour’s civil war was reignited on Monday when Mr McDonald dramatically quit as Shadow Employment Rights Secretary in a row over the minimum wage.
He claimed Mr Starmer had told him to block a £15 minimum wage and said the leader had not honoured “our commitment to socialist policies”
One of the last survivors of the Corbyn era in the shadow cabinet, Mr McDonald’s departure stoked acrimony and caused tensions to spill into the open.
On Tuesday, Mr McDonnell lashed out at Mr Starmer for going back on pledges during his Labour leadership campaign.
Asked if Mr Starmer was trying to move in a completely different direction without him, Mr McDonnell told Sky News: “If he does, I wish he’d told us that when he stood for leader”
“When he stood for leader there were two basic promises – one, ‘I will unite the party’.
“When he was talking about uniting the party he talked about more member engagement, not less.
“The second, he put out a 10-point policy plan which was largely based upon the last two manifestos, and that’s how he got elected leader.”
He said he had “tried to” support Mr Starmer but “some of us had to speak out” over factional changes at conference.
Mr Corbyn told the Mirror that Mr Starmer should stick to his commitments during a fringe event.
He said: “I read the 10 points that he put forward for the leadership and I think when you put forward something you should try and stick to it as a policy thing.
“But I don’t want to get involved in some personal spat with people. I want to see a different society, a better world and a Labour movement that can deliver that by inspiring people.”
The former leader insisted that Mr McDonald’s departure was not a plot – after some critics accused him of trying to derail the conference.
Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray had branded the move “deliberate sabotage”, saying Mr McDonald had signed off Labour’s policy of at least a £10 minimum himself.
Mr Corbyn said he had “series of private conversations” with Mr McDonald, who is a close friend.
“Andy worked very closely with us in the shadow cabinet and he took what was for him a personal and very difficult and very principled decision,” he said.
“If it had been a deep-laid Machiavellian plot to announce a resignation on a particular afternoon in Brighton, it would’ve leaked out weeks ago.”
Mr Corbyn, who lost the Labour whip in a row over anti-Semitism last year, said he believed he should be admitted back into the parliamentary party after having his membership restored.
He said: “I don’t think the Parliamentary Labour Party should try to gainsay what the National Executive has decided so as far as I am concerned there is no case other than I should be reinstated on the Labour whip.”
It comes as Mr Corbyn called on the Labour party to “have a sense of humanity and self-criticism” on the part they played in wars in the past.
Speaking at a Labour Conference fringe event on ‘How can we end 20 years of the war on terror?, he said: ” We need to look to the future where we have a foreign policy and international justice strategy based on peace or justice, on human rights and respect for people and deal with the real issues of this planet.
“Which are global poverty inequality, as COVID is showing us and of course, the threats of environmental destruction and climate change, that has to be the right way forward.”
Yesterday Mr Corbyn accused Mr Starmer of failing to challenge the wealthy and the powerful.
Writing in the i newspaper, he said: “So far this week, Labour’s leaders have shown they want to prop up, not challenge that wealth and power.
“There is another way forward, that is based on social justice, and in the policies the majority of people actually want, not what the establishment and its media mouthpieces insist they should want.”