The Daily Telegraph
Corbyn ally quits role on front bench on eve of Labour conference
ONE of the last remaining Corbynistas on Sir Keir Starmer’s front bench has quit weeks before hard-left MPS are expected to challenge his shift to the centre at Labour’s annual conference.
Marsha de Cordova, the shadow women and equalities secretary, announced last night that she was resigning to spend more time working on constituency matters.
The Battersea MP, who was elected in 2017, said that she wanted to “focus more of my time and efforts” on her constituency, which she said was a “historically marginal” seat.
Responding to her resignation, Sir Keir praised Ms de Cordova for highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority groups and for drawing up Labour’s plans for a Race Equality Act to tackle “the structural inequalities which have existed in our society for too long”.
However, the timing of her departure has raised fresh questions over the cohesion of Sir Keir’s shadow cabinet as the party faithful prepare to gather in Brighton for his first conference as Labour leader.
It also risked overshadowing Sir Keir’s address to the Trade Unions Congress yesterday morning, in which he sought to rebuild relations with the union movement by setting out a series of pledges to bolster workers’ pay.
Ms de Cordova is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPS associated with Jeremy Corbyn and is said to have a strained relationship with Sir Keir over transgender rights.
She is also understood to have irritated some leadership figures after she signed a letter alongside eight other black Labour MPS criticising delays to an inquiry tasked with looking into a leaked report over the party’s handling of anti-semitism complaints.
The report also revealed party officials had used insulting language in private exchanges when referring to black MPS including Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis.
Ms Cordova is the latest in a line of prominent Left-wing figures to have quit or been sacked from Sir Keir’s front bench in recent months, despite party unity being a key priority when he was elected leader. It comes just days after it emerged that Sir Keir is preparing to publish a 14,000-word essay in which he will reportedly seek to end Labour’s “navel-gazing” and refocus the party on winning power.
However, he is coming under mounting pressure from MPS to set out a new policy platform and vision for Labour, with many frustrated at the lack of urgency 18 months after he was elected.
He is also expected to face criticism from senior Left-wing MPS in Brighton who believe he is abandoning key elements of Mr Corbyn’s policy programme and sidelining figures in their ranks. Several will be appearing alongside Mr Corbyn at an alternative festival taking place alongside Labour’s conference.
It came as Sir Keir yesterday vowed to increase sick pay as part of a package to boost workers’ rights, as he urged trade unions to work with Labour to secure power. At the TUC annual conference, Sir Keir said Labour would immediately increase the minimum wage to at least £10 an hour and provide a greater role for unions in boosting pay for workers.
But in order to do so, the Labour leader said that the party and union movement had an “obligation to unite and work together”, adding: “If we do, we can take on this Right-wing government, win the next general election and deliver the transformational change working people so desperately need.”
During his speech, Sir Keir also highlighted his background as the son of a toolmaker. He has repeatedly drawn on his upbringing in recent months, which some in the party believe is an attempt to dispel public perceptions that he hails from the middle classes.
Charlotte Nichols, a junior shadow minister to Ms de Cordova on the same brief, also resigned. Ms Nichols said her resignation was unconnected to Ms Cordova’s, and that her departure from the shadow cabinet was for “personal reasons”.