(BRIGHTON) Labour Conference Report: Sir Keir Starmer is at the centre of a row over left-wing demands to back increasing the minimum wage to £15 an hour as minister for employment resigns #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Sept.28: Labour’s conference is expected to pass a motion later calling for this to be party policy:

#AceDailyNews says that U.K Media reports Keir Starmer in row with Labour’s left over minimum wage increase as Frontbencher Andy McDonald resigned on Monday, saying the leadership had ordered him to argue against the rise, making his position “untenable”………….The leadership is keen to avoid an open row on the issue………It says it will not encourage members to back or reject the motion, which, if it passes, will not automatically become Labour policy.

By Justin Parkinson
Political reporter, BBC News

Sir Keir Starmer

Arguments between the left, including supporters of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Labour members loyal to Sir Keir have dominated the conference in Brighton.

Sir Keir pushed through reforms to the party election rules, seen as unfavourable to left-wing members of Labour, in a vote on Sunday.Andy McDonald MP: “Is it unreasonable to expect our key workers not to have that level of pay?”

The Unite union is putting the motion, calling for the minimum wage to increase to £15, to a vote on Tuesday.

The current minimum wage is £8.91 for those 23 and over, £8.36 for those aged 21 and 22, and £6.56 for 18 to 20-year olds. 

The wide-ranging Unite motion also says that, for Labour to win the next election, it “must be an anti-austerity party, defending jobs and improving living standards”.

It includes demands for stronger union rights, higher taxes “on the very wealthiest”, an end to zero-hour contracts and a “better work-life balance”.

Today’s conference motion is not binding so the argument over it is symbolic. The left argue it is more proof that they are radical where Sir Keir Starmer is lukewarm. And it’s a way of fighting back after Sir Keir changed the party’s rules to make it harder for a Corbynite candidate to get into a future leadership contest. The leadership is turning down the invitation to have a fight about this vote, saying it’s not bothered if the motion passes. Nonetheless, there’s a war between Starmer and the far left and this is today’s battleground. There will be another one soon. Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Labour’s current policy was to raise the minimum wage at “at least” £10 per hour. He insisted that the party leadership was “perfectly happy” for conference delegates to back the £15 motion.However, he said Labour would only reassess its current policy closer to the next general election, adding this was the “responsible thing to do”.Raising the minimum wage was not one of the 10 pledges Sir Keir made when running for the Labour leadership last year.But he supported a campaign in 2019 for fast food chain McDonald’s to improve pay and conditions.At the time, he said: “They’re not asking for the Earth. They’re asking for the basics – £15 an hour, the right to know their hours in advance and to have trade union recognition. That ought to be the norm in 21st Century Britain.”But, in a scathing resignation letter, Mr McDonald claimed the leader’s office had instructed him go to a meeting at the party conference and “argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage”.”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,” he added.Labour pledges £28bn a year to make economy greenerLabour: Has Starmer stood by his pledges?Meanwhile, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the party’s current leadership of wanting to “prop up, not challenge” wealth and power. Writing for the i news website, he added: “If our leadership won’t champion that path, our movement must and will.”Mr Thomas-Symonds told the Today programme he rejected Mr Corbyn’s analysis, adding Sir Keir had a “passionate sense of social justice”.Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a senior figure on Labour’s left, said: “Questions have got to be asked about Keir Starmer… the conference is falling apart.”And former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, also on the left of the party, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “nonsense” to suggest there was a campaign to undermine Sir Keir.She added: “Andy’s not the sort of person to say anything the leadership wants to keep his job.”Mr McDonald was one of only a few members of previous Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team who continued to serve after Sir Keir took over.Responding to his resignation, Sir Keir 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.” 

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