Starmer expected to wrangle with the left after Middlesbrough's Andy McDonald's shock resignation

  • Tom Sheldrick reports the latest from the Labour Party conference.

Sir Keir Starmer is expected to continue to grapple with the left of his party as he tries to get the Labour conference back on track after the dramatic resignation of a shadow cabinet minister.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald resigned on Monday (28 September) telling the leader his party is "more divided than ever".

Mr McDonald said he was stepping down as shadow employment rights and protections secretary after being asked to "go into a meeting to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 and against statutory sick pay at the living wage".

Mr McDonald, who also served in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet, added: "This is something I could not do."

In a letter to Sir Keir, he 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 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.”

Meeting with the press later on Monday, he said resigning was the "most difficult decision" of his life.

Sir Keir said his "focus and that of the whole party is on winning the next general election” in response Mr McDonald's resignation.

He added: “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."

The row threatens to overshadow the message the wider shadow cabinet wishes to present, with suggestions Mr McDonald was seeking to sabotage Sir Keir's conference.

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: "We’re not quite sure why he resigned, but these things happen in politics and we’re all very angry and frustrated that the headlines are being dominated by one person when we should be talking about the big issues of the future.”

He said the resignation "might be a planned sabotage of conference, rather than it being about any principle".

Meanwhile, 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”.

Sir Keir has 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.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "Andy McDonald has been a terrific Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights".

It comes after former shadow minister Barry Gardiner told ITV News the Labour Party is "absolutely united".

Tory Party chair Oliver Dowden seized on Mr McDonald’s resignation from the shadow cabinet to criticise the Labour Party.

As did Chief Secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom Simon Clarke, who said the opposition was "in utter chaos".

Amid accusations that Mr McDonald was attempting to sabotage Mr Starmer, political correspondent Tom Sheldrick spoke with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.