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
    -6

    Comment number 452.

    Trade Unions are pointless these days, they sold out years ago, originally formed to abolish the wage system then invented the stupid idea of a fair days pay for a fair days work, so forget about discrimination, inequality so long as capitalists make profits from wage slaves. Trade Unions/Labour Party endorse capitalism and are on the side of the factory owner not the worker.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 451.

    Excellent news. Watson was one of the biggest a-holes in politics.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 450.

    157 Mouse_Nightshirt
    The labour party was formed by the trade unions in the 1900's to give the workers a voice in politics, but in now has it has been taken over by more and more career politicians who have tried to take it away from the workers,and as a result you only have to look at the mess they left us with.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 449.

    The Unions are Labour's main source of money.

    A stand off won't really last that long.

    The Unions will continue to pull the strings.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 448.

    Unite should get a better spin-doctor to write their statements. This 'fought the boss' nonsense is straight out of the early 1970s. If you take successful companies like Rolls-Royce in Derby or Nissan in Sunderland there's no need to "fight the boss". Compare them to British-Leyland/Rover......... Oh. You can't. They've gone bankrupt.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 447.

    McCluskey talks about Unite's "integrity", but how does a Union that has appointed instead of elected Officers have any. All of the AGS's and national officers are Len's cronies with their snouts in the trough. More power to Ed and his attempt break away. Of course, his brother David would have never got in this position!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 446.

    The Labour Party was founded by unions, circa 1904. The Labour Party's sole purpose was (pre Blair) to represent workers interests. Like it or not (and I'm no fan of Old Labour, or this Tory Lite edition) we have to have an effective opposition in Parliament or we lose real democracy - just look at MPs now claiming expenses for children, no controls and they take the wee out of us.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 445.

    This is virtually no different to a large corporation's influence over the Tory party.

    The whole system of political funding needs to be addressed.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 444.

    Seeing as the political elite may well be outmanoeuvred at the next general election, now would be a good time for the Unions to split totally from the unrepresentive New, and getting ever newer labour Party. Why support anything that does not represent you or your veiws?. Change is not always bad.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 443.

    20.
    therealist
    "But they are now history and they lost any credibility when they tried to hold business and governments to ransom,"

    That would be like when they held business and governments to ransom for ..err ... paid holdays, maternity leave, employment rights, the list is endless.

    Quaint you think power would ever be given up voluntarily.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 442.

    I agree with the sentiment of trying to ensure that prospective Labour MPs should actually believe in the basic principals on which the party was founded, as opposed to the Blairites who all seemed to believe they were on 'The Apprentice'.

    I can never condone blatent vote rigging though & like many trade union leaders in the past, McCluskey is just playing directly into the hands of the Tories!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 441.

    Why do the Tories always make out that the link between Trade Unions and Labour is somehow a big scary secret? it isn’t called the LABOUR MOVEMENT for nothing, and has been that way for well over 100 years.

    What is more surprising is how Labour seem ashamed of that heritage.

    Both organisations are far more democratic than the Conservative Party and Big Business.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 440.

    But all candidate lists and selections for all parties are 'rigged' by some interest group or other- it's called basic political reality, people.

    This is like watching two very weak vultures fighting over the decaying, putrid carcass of the long-deceased Labour Party.

  • rate this
    +49

    Comment number 439.

    Miliband must hold his ground, and can only benefit from doing so. Labour may have its origins in the trade union movement, but it should be a party for all those who believe in social justice and fairness, regardless of background. Was Clement Attlee working class? No, but he was of infinitely more worth to the furthering of true Labour ideals than an egotistical dinosaur like McCluskey.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 438.

    Now watch the unions abandon Labour leaving the party in bankruptcy just before a general election :)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 437.

    The problem is that the Labour Party can not decide whether it's to the right or the left. However, because the Blairites still seem to hold sway, the right is winning. Therefore we now have three Tory parties: Tory Nasty, UKIP and Tory Lite.

    Where is the voice of the left? As it is almost every week, it was certainly missing in last night's 'balanced' Question Time on BBC .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 436.

    Falkirk is in Scotland
    Johann Lamont is the supposed leader of all Labour MP's in Scotland
    Why hasn't she not got involved with the selection process in Falkirk?
    Why hasn't Lamont said ANYTHING? Oh that's right she is a puppet of her London masters - Labour in Scotland = pathetic!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 435.

    Decent people simply do not behave this way !

    I suppose that's why decent people rarely reach such senior and influential positions !

    Will this burn out before the election campaigns start or will they smile & shake hands for the cameras for their own benefit ?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 434.

    394 BadlyPackedKebab

    Not delusional, just poking fun?

    I already have First Prize for getting old puffers in a panic!

    Big problem is that electorate take conventional political parties seriously, imagining they have some say in matters by casting their vote, when they clearly do not?

    Whole rigmarole of misgovernment has been rigged for years. Surely that is obvious to everyone by now

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 433.

    Another fat cat, over paid, non productive person, leaching off others.

 

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