No Miliband apology over Falkirk vote row - Harman

Harriet Harman: Allegations needed to be investigated

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Ed Miliband should not apologise to Unite despite an internal report clearing the union of trying to rig the selection of a Labour election candidate in Falkirk, his deputy says.

Harriet Harman said the party was right to probe the claims and review its relationship with unions.

The allegations caused a rift between Labour and its biggest donor Unite.

Tory chairman Grant Shapps said Unite had a "hold" over Labour, but the party has refused to make the report public.

Labour started seeking a candidate for the Falkirk seat when MP Eric Joyce announced he would be stepping down at the next general election in 2015 after he was convicted of assault at a Commons bar.

The party had been investigating allegations that Unite tried to sign up members without their knowledge in the constituency to ensure their favoured candidate, Karie Murphy, was chosen.

The claims sparked a row between Unite and Mr Miliband, who later proposed widespread changes to Labour's links with the unions.

'Special measures'

On Friday, Labour said its internal inquiry had found no evidence to suggest that rules were breached after "key evidence" was withdrawn.

Start Quote

It's backfired on the party”

End Quote Jim Sheridan Labour MP and chairman of Unite's parliamentary group

It said neither Ms Murphy nor Stevie Deans, a fellow Unite member who was chair of the local Labour Party, had been found guilty of any wrongdoing and they would be reinstated as members.

Nevertheless, Ms Murphy withdrew as the prospective general election candidate for the sake of party "reconciliation and unity".

Labour's Tom Watson, who stood down from his shadow cabinet role as election co-ordinator amid the row, said the party should now apologise to Ms Murphy, who was his office manager, and Mr Deans.

"They have had a terrible few months: They have been staked out by tabloid journalists, had their characters traduced in the newspapers, been attacked by frontbenchers," he said.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The basis for the report was a mess and Ed's office have been able to drill into that issue and realise that."

Labour MP Jim Sheridan, who chairs Unite's parliamentary group, agreed with calls for the report to be published.

"Hopefully it is," he said. "But... I emphasise that people were too quick off the mark. They see this as an opportunity to distance the party from the trade unions and it's backfired.

"It's not only backfired on them, it's backfired on the party, it's backfired on the individuals concerned and it's backfired on the people of Falkirk."

While the threat of disciplinary action has also been dropped, the local party in Falkirk still remains in "special measures" and Labour intends to impose a centrally-decided shortlist of candidates for 2015.

'Clear the air'

Conservative Grant Shapps says it ''would clear the air to publish the report''

Asked if Mr Miliband should apologise, Ms Harman said: "No, I don't think so. If serious allegations are made, it is the responsibility of the leader of the Labour Party to make sure they are properly investigated."

She added: "The outcome of the situation in Falkirk has no bearing on the importance for the future of getting a better relationship between Labour and the trade unions."

Mr Shapps told the BBC: "Just two months ago, Ed Miliband said this was malpractice. Now, it's suddenly slipped out late on a Friday night, the whole thing's over.

"So I think it would clear the air to publish the report and let everybody judge for themselves."

He added: "It now appears that pressure from the unions has caused Ed Miliband to buckle.

"Suddenly, he is saying, 'Don't worry about it, it was nothing'... We need to see exactly what has happened."

The GMB union announced earlier this week that it would cut affiliation fees to Labour by nearly £1m in response to to Mr Miliband's plans to reform union links and party funding.

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