Labour to refer Falkirk selection row to police

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband: ''At all times, we have acted to uphold the integrity of my party''

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Ed Miliband is refusing to back down in his fight with Labour's biggest union backer over its influence in the party.

The Labour leader has asked police to look at alleged irregularities in a candidate selection race in Falkirk.

According to an internal Labour report, Unite members were being signed up to the local party without their knowledge in a bid to rig the contest.

Unite leader Len McCluskey said his union had done nothing wrong and he was disappointed at the turn of events.

Labour HQ has taken over the selection contest in Falkirk but has not said why it has involved the police.

Mr McCluskey denies claims Unite tried to fix the contest to get its preferred candidate selected and claims the internal Labour is a "stitch up" designed to smear the union.

'Bad practice'

Mr Miliband has dismissed the smear claims as "total nonsense" and said that, instead of defending these practices, Mr McCluskey should be "facing up to what happened in Falkirk".

Analysis

There are a million questions still to be clarified about what exactly went on in Falkirk, but there is no doubt that in sending their evidence to the police, Ed Miliband and Labour have chosen to escalate this row with Unite to a stratospheric level.

Now it may be that he had little choice with political opponents taking similar steps, nevertheless many in the unions will see this as akin to turning in a family member.

Nothing may come of it. There may be nothing to find.

But if you were thinking that this was all shadow boxing up till now, think again.

It has without doubt become the biggest test of the Labour leader's time in charge, and could define the party's future relationship with the whole union movement.

Who will blink first?

"The Labour Party I lead will select its candidates in a fair and transparent way. We will act without fear or favour," said Mr Miliband.

"He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there. He should be facing up to it."

Mr Miliband said the party's inquiry had shown "people were being signed up as members of the Labour Party without their knowledge. It says that bad practices were going on. It says people were being asked to sign up to the Labour Party on the condition that they supported particular candidates.

"We are not having this in the Labour Party."

Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told the BBC: "We took advice yesterday in relation to the Falkirk matter and as a result of the advice given, have decided swiftly and strongly to refer it to the police."

It is not clear why the party considers it might be a police matter. Mr Umunna told the BBC he could not comment about why as legal advice was "subject to prejudice".

The Conservative MP Henry Smith had also written to the Chief Constable of Scotland, Sir Stephen House, asking for an inquiry and suggesting Unite might have committed fraud.

Mr McCluskey told reporters he was "clearly disappointed at the developments back in London" adding: "It seems to me that the Labour leadership has now been caught up in anti-union Tory hysteria and I'm amazed as everyone else is at this."

'Done nothing wrong'

He said he supported Ed Miliband as Labour leader but said: "We are in the middle of a media storm which is being caused by Labour's inability to deal with this situation."

He said he would co-operate with any police inquiry but wanted an independent inquiry that would be made public: "As far as Unite's concerned we have done nothing wrong."

Len McCluskey: "The way its been handled by the Labour Party headquarters is nothing short of disgraceful"

The Conservatives said Mr Miliband should have acted sooner.

A spokesman said: "This is followship, not leadership, from Ed Miliband. Why didn't he refer Falkirk to the police days ago?"

He added: "Will Ed Miliband now come clean, and admit that this scandal goes wider than just Falkirk?

"Unite have already admitted that they are targeting another 40 Labour selections, as Len McCluskey continues to take over the Labour Party."

But Mr Miliband told BBC political editor Nick Robinson the party had acted "thoroughly and decisively" since allegations were first raised in May, first suspending the selection process, then holding its own inquiry and then referring the matter to the police.

He also rejected Mr McCluskey's suggestion that he was seeking his own "Clause IV moment" - a "situation where [Labour leaders] punch up union leaders" - saying he was acting "to uphold the integrity of my party".

The party has already stepped in to run the selection process in Falkirk centrally, and has suspended the rules under which unions could sign up members to Labour and pay the fees on their behalf.

On Thursday, Labour's general election co-ordinator Tom Watson, whose office manager Karie Murphy was Unite's preferred candidate in Falkirk, quit for the "future unity" of the party.

Mr Watson told BBC Radio WM that he had been thinking about it for a few months but the "fuss" about the Falkirk selection had persuaded him it was time to move on.

But he added: "I think David Cameron's portrayal of the situation, that everyone is in hock to Len McCluskey, is just not true."

Falkirk selection row: Who's who?
Ed Miliband Ed Miliband: In 2011, the Labour leader made Tom Watson deputy chairman of the Labour Party and 2015 general election co-ordinator, to oversee the selection of Labour parliamentary candidates.
Tom Watson Tom Watson MP: The former union official resigned as election co-ordinator over the Falkirk selection inquiry. He told Mr Miliband he was also tired of the shadow cabinet "merry-go-round". He has close ties to Unite's Len McCluskey.
Karie Murphy Karie Murphy: Tom Watson's office manager and Unite's preferred candidate for Falkirk. She has been suspended by the party along with Falkirk party chairman Stephen Deans.
Len McCluskey Len McCluskey: Unite general secretary and Mr Watson's former flat mate. He denies that Unite tried to sway the selection by filling the local party with members. Unions had been able to sign up members to the party and pay their fees.
 

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  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 312.

    @ Big John the Red

    What and the Unions are not control freaks? They tried to run the the country by fear and intimidation. Utter contemptable thugs. .Scarghill used the miner as his weapons and they paid the price. I believe in the unions as they were originally intended but never ever again can they be allowed to do as they did and affect the country in such a way.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 311.

    Wealth and Toff's? Individual impact is determined by what one does in life as a whole. A focus on wealth etc is a distraction driven by envy. Isn't there an interesting dichotomy here; on the one hand people criticise wealth, class etc and on the other, people dream about winning the Euromillions rollover - does this mean that on winning, they will then criticise themselves?

  • rate this
    +93

    Comment number 310.

    "Unite's stated strategy is to "shift the balance in the party away from middle class academics and professionals towards people who have actually represented workers and fought the boss". "

    Really? This sort of thinking is straight out of the bad days of the 1970s.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 309.

    Terminally dysfuntional Labour Party in meltdown North & South of the Cheviots, lost sight of the reason they were created. Prepare for permutations of Tory - Lib Dem government ad infinitum in r-UK.
    Scottish Labour have just rearranged the deckchairs with Ken MacIntosh walking the plank for being too competent..

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 308.

    Len the dinosaur wants to take us back to the 1970's .... hmmm.
    Unions should stick to ensuring the rights of the working are not violated and a fair wage is given for a fair days work without their subs being used for politcal power battles.
    Len has also adopted the mantra "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" as he wants to have his 'brothers' in the clover.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 307.

    No need now to wonder why it was Ed (rather than his brother David) whom Labour MPs elected as Party Leader. It's scarcely a Unite-d [sic] party, is it?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 306.

    282 Proud

    'His brother David must be having the last laugh over there in NY!'

    Not as much as I'm laughing. I don't care which Miliband leads the Labour party as long as he leads them to electoral oblivion.

    Looks like Ned is on track. But then what hope does he have with Toxic Ed Balls as consigliere?

    Look what he did for Brown. Destroyed the UK economy in an attempt at re-election.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 305.

    i dread what lays ahead for the british working class, unions are impotent and have little or no influence (wages falling etc), the working class and poor now have no representation anymore in parliament. the labour party ahould be renamed tory lite. and i am sure mr cameron will be doing his best to get rid of the eu social chapter. thatcher's big plan continues god help us all.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 304.

    Poor old McCluskey. They paid all that money to get Puppet Ed in charge and now it appears he's trying to cut his own strings (and can't even do that properly!).
    Guess he'll just have to cry into his £150k pay packet and think of other ways to spend the members money in order to get government influence through the back door.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 303.

    I think union should have no say in politics. Of course they can express their opinion, but not in this way, rather they should put their opinion forward as a voter. The fact that union has so much power over one of the major parties in the UK is just ridiculous.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 302.

    If unite did break the rules in anyway then the correct decision has been made. If our eton pm & the other millionaire career politicians. Say the unions are ruling labour, then you better inform Len McCluskey as he is in the dark! Band wagon jumpers & not even correct.Little desperate in my book as people feeling the pinch from constant austerity measures. Caused by greedy bankers & the poor pay

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 301.

    "David Cameron said it was now "quite clear the trade unions have far too much control over Labour". - Funny he never mentions that the Tories are subservient to the Bankers and the City, and we know who has brought this country down.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 300.

    Labour are going to have a credibility problem for a long time over this.

    It brings into question why MP's put in parliament by the Unions are allowed a vote on Union based issues...?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 299.

    278. The left are the biggest threat to western democracy.
    ---
    I would go further and say Politics and Politicians are a threat to ALL of society. Not one of them is trained to solve a problem- only to open their mouths and give an opinion. Normally that is an opinion that benefits them, like they should have their wages increased.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 298.

    Elect me for a better tomorrow

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 297.

    It's about time this sort of thing is exposed, the UK public got fed up with the Unions in the 70's and 80's because they over-stepped their purpose in society but they continue to wield too much influence over the Labour party. It will be interesting to see this unfold and if this is an isolated case or the tip of the iceberg?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 296.

    Many years ago I had a dispute with my employer At the meeting a Union Steward turn up A slightly deranged looking fellow pot-bellied jaw-jutting table thumper who seemed to be able only to converse in words of two syllables. 5 min in I stopped the oaf and told him to leave and cancel my subscription at once. The boss was so impressed he gave me a pay rise and promotion. I have never looked back

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 295.

    Labour/New Labour owes it's life to the trade unions,so if anything,the 7-5m union membership have too little say on the Labour party.
    It's quite simple..cast adrift this lot and form a new party,one which reflects the wishes of the people who bankroll it.
    N/L has nothing to say about the ordinary worker who has seen constant attacks on pay,conditions,pensions these last few yrs.
    Time to divorce!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 294.

    Oh Dear the Chapangne Socialists are ripping at each others throats. Its another nail in the coffin of any notion that the Labour party are a workers party, like the Conservatives they are a party of vested interests, inhabited by the Rich and powerful. If Union members are stupid enough to fund a party that supports the cuts then more fool them, no wonder Unions are laughed at.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 293.

    I'd have alot more time for unions if their leaders weren't such hypocritical loud mouths.

    Union bosses act like men/women of the people but are basically 'fat cats' themselves on six figure salaries. If they care so much for the working man, I don't understand why they haven't halved their salaries and kept a few of their members in work during these tough times.

 

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