Andy McDonald quits shadow cabinet saying role “has become untenable”

Sienna Rodgers
© David Woolfall/CC BY 3.0

Andy McDonald has resigned from the shadow cabinet during Labour conference, telling Keir Starmer that he “wanted to fight for the working people of this country” and “cannot do this as a member of the shadow cabinet”.

The Labour MP for Middlesbrough, the last Corbynite in the shadow cabinet, has said his position “has become untenable” and that he “wanted to fight for the working people of this country” but “cannot do this” from the frontbench.

The former Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections said Starmer’s office “instructed me 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”.

The TUC has campaigned for the rate of statutory sick pay to be raised to at least the level of the real living wage, £330 per week. SSP in the UK is currently £95.85 a week, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

McDonald told the Labour leader: “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.”

The resignation letter states that McDonald is “immensely proud” of the work done on Labour’s employment rights green paper, which was unveiled by deputy leader Angela Rayner over the weekend at conference.

McDonald had been the only shadow cabinet member to vocalise opposition to Starmer’s rule changes for conference in a meeting with the Labour leader and frontbenchers last week, before they were passed by delegates on Sunday.

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 so we can deliver for working people who need a Labour government.”

Manuel Cortes – general secretary of TSSA, which nominated Starmer for the leadership – said: “Andy is a man of principle and honour to his boots… Frankly, our leadership needs to realise that our party is a broad church and we need more people with Andy’s type of politics on our frontbench, not less.”

CWU leader Dave Ward said: “Andy McDonald was the first MP to grasp the CWUs call for a new deal for workers in the UK. He knows that the balance of forces in society has to change and he knows key workers deserve a minimum wage of £15 an hour. We stand with him.”

Also commenting on the resignation, Labour national executive committee (NEC) member and Momentum steering group Mish Rahman said: “Labour has to be the party of working people, not bosses.

“During the leadership election, it seemed like Starmer understood this – but this resignation proves he does not. By asking a shadow minister to argue against a higher minimum wage and decent sick pay. he has demonstrated just how out of touch he is with working people.”

Labour to Win co-founder Luke Akehurst said: “It’s disappointing that Andy McDonald would distract from a successful conference by grandstanding like this. 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.”

John McDonnell commented: “Andy McDonald has been a terrific Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights. He’s just delivered the most comprehensive and detailed policy programme for securing employment rights in our history. He has resigned on a point of principle that workers should have decent pay.”

Rachel Reeves was told of the resignation during a fringe event. She said: “I wasn’t aware Andy McDonald has resigned from the shadow cabinet. 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.”

Below is the full text of his resignation letter.

Dear Keir,

It is with deep sadness that I am tendering my resignation from the Shadow Cabinet.

My role as Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections has become untenable.

When you became leader, I accepted the role because I wanted to fight for the working people of this country. It has become clear to me that I cannot do this as a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

Yesterday, your office instructed me 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. This is something I could not do.

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.

Yours,

Andy McDonald MP

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