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Labour's Andy McDonald Has Resigned From The Shadow Cabinet

Labour's Andy McDonald Has Resigned From The Shadow Cabinet
5 min read

Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections, Andy McDonald, has resigned from the shadow cabinet.

The MP for Middlesbrough announced his resignation this afternoon in a letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer.

McDonald was the last remaining ‘Corbynite’ MP in the shadow cabinet.

In his letter to Starmer, McDonald cited being asked by the leader’s office to argue against introducing a £15 minimum wage and statutory sick pay at the living wage as his reason for leaving office.

“Yesterday, your office instructued me to go into a meeting to argue against a National Minimum Wage of £15 an hour and Statutory Sick Pay at the living wage. This is something I could not do,” McDonald wrote.

“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,” the MP added.

Responding to news of the resignation, Starmer 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."

The timing of McDonald's resignation, on the third day of Labour's party conference in Brighton, will trouble Starmer, who has saught to project an image of unity in his party.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves was informed of McDonald's decision to step down by journalists during an 'in conversation with' fringe event. 

"I wasn’t aware Andy McDonald has resigned from the shadow cabinet," Reeves told the audience.

"I'd like to pay tribute to Andy for the work that he has done with Angela Rayner on workplace rights, which were announced at Conference on Sunday. (They) were about giving rights to workers on day one, to maternity and paternity leave, to flexible working, to end fire and rehire, to increase the national minimum wage and so much more.

"So I pay tribute to Andy for the work that he’s done in the Shadow Cabinet in bringing forward those really important policies, which will make a big difference to working people."

Former leader of Unite the Union, Len McCluskey, told PoliticsHome that Andy McDonald was a significant loss to the shadow cabinet.

"Obviously his resignation letter is very, very damning indeed. He's effectively said Keir has renaged on the 10 pledges that he was elected on, he's saying the party is more disunited than it's ever been and he's not prepared to be continued to be part of it.

"If Keir is losing people like Andy McDonald, then he's in some trouble. Andy is a lovely man, he's not given to histrionics. This is a big blow to Keir."

"Obviously his resignation letter is very, very damning indeed. He's effectively said Keir has reneged on the 10 pledges that he was elected on, he's saying the party is more disunited than it's ever been and he's not prepared to continue to be a part of it. If Keir is losing people like Andy McDonald, then he's in some trouble. Andy is a lovely man, he's not given to histrionics. This is a big blow to Keir."

Luke Akehurst, Chair of the centre-left campaign group Labour to Win, described McDonald's move as "grandstanding". 

"It's disappointing that Andy McDonald would distract from a successful conference by grandstanding like this," Akehurst told PoliticsHome.

"He hasn't been a high profile member of the shadow cabinet so hopefully his departure will enable Keir to promote a heavier hitter, and someone who understands collective responsibility."

Responding to McDonald's resignation, Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden said: "At #Lab21 Labour are divided and fighting among themselves. 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? 

Former spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn, Matt Zarb-Cousin, told PoliticsHome: "Andy McDonald is principled and extremely competent, he will be a huge loss to Starmer’s front bench. This represents yet another party management disasterclass from Keir and the zealots around him who can’t bring themselves to back a £15 an hour minimum wage for key workers.

"It shows how far right this leadership is drifting when even Tony Blair managed to keep some token lefties in his cabinet.”

Another Labour insider said they knew McDonald was unhappy with the leadership but hadn't expected him to quit.

McDonald's resignation comes on the same day that former Labour MP Dame Louise Ellman announced she has rejoined Labour as a member.

Ellman resigned from Labour in October 2019 in protest against the party's handling of the antisemitism crisis. 

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