Sir Keir Starmer was “showing solidarity” with workers when he photographed at a protest backing a £15 minimum wage two years ago, Labour has claimed amid a growing row over the party’s low pay policy.
The Labour conference was thrown was disarray after Andy McDonald quit as shadow employment rights secretary in protest at being told to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 per hour.
A 2019 photo of Starmer campaigning next to McDonald’s workers fighting for £15 minimum wage has gone viral, as left-wingers accuse him of going back on his previous support.
“It is a fact that Keir Starmer did support £15 an hour until recently and he has been on protest demanding it,” said Diane Abbott, who served in the shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn.
“It is no good clapping these people and then not be prepared to give them a decent minimum wage,” the Labour MP added.
Corbyn accused Starmer and his team of wanting to “prop up” wealth and power by failing to back a conference motion to make a £15 per hour minimum wage party policy.
But Labour frontbencher Nick Thomas-Symonds denied any inconsistency over the issue, claiming the party’s position of pushing for a minimum of £10 an hour was the “responsible thing to say”.
Asked by LBC about the 2019 photo showing Starmer at the McDonald’s workers’ protest for a £15 minimum wage, the shadow home secretary said: “He was showing solidarity with those workers who were seeking to fight for it.”
Thomas-Symonds said Labour would assess its minimum wage policy closer to the next general election: “What we’re saying as well is that we don’t know what the economic conditions are going to be … when Boris Johnson chooses to call the next general election.”
Thomas-Symonds could name the current minimum wage when asked for the figure on LBC. “Well, it’s below £10 … I don’t know off the top of my head. I’m just being quite honest with you.”
McDonald said he quit as shadow employment rights secretary after being ordered to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 per hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage ahead of Tuesday’s vote. “This is something I could not do,” he wrote.
The leadership’s fresh battle with the Labour left comes amid accusations that the resignation of McDonald from the shadow cabinet was an act of “planned sabotage” by Starmer’s opponents.
Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “We’re not quite sure why he resigned yesterday, he seems to have said one thing and written another. That looks as if it might be a planned sabotage of conference, rather than it being about any principle.”
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