UK Politics

Stephen Deans to step down as Falkirk Labour Party chair

Stephen Deans
Image caption Stephen Deans is expected to step down as chair of the Falkirk Labour Party

Stephen Deans, the chair of Falkirk Labour Party, intends to stand down from his post, the BBC has learned.

It is believed he will not stand for re-election when the post is contested at a party AGM on 24 November.

Mr Deans was accused of being involved in vote-rigging in Falkirk, but was later cleared by an investigation.

However, David Cameron blamed him for the Grangemouth row which almost led to the closure of that refinery plant and the loss of 800 jobs.

Unite was accused of coercing its members to join the Falkirk Labour Party or signing them up without their knowledge, to ensure the union's favoured candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected as a general election candidate.

An internal Labour Party investigation cleared Unite and its members of any wrongdoing after key witnesses withdrew their allegations - Mr Deans, who had been suspended by Labour, was reinstated.

But the Sunday Times now says it has seen 1,000 emails to and from Mr Deans, which it says reveal the full extent of the plot to influence the selection process.

Its story also included extracts of the internal Labour report - which has never been published by the party - in which Labour officials said there were "deliberate attempts to frustrate" interviews with some of the key witnesses.

The emails suggested that a letter retracting key evidence in the Labour investigation was not written by the witnesses but by union officials and approved by Mr Deans, according to the Sunday Times.

'Damaged organisation'

Following news of Mr Deans' decision to step down, the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party held a meeting after which local member Gray Allan called on the party to make its report public.

He said: "Of all the parties that have been involved in this matter since the beginning, the one voice that has not been heard is the voice of the rank and file Labour party members in this constituency."

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Media captionLen McCluskey: "They're laying traps for Ed Miliband and he should not fall in to those traps"

He said members were disappointed that no-one from the national executive council of the Scottish Labour Party had attended their meeting, adding: "We need matters to be addressed here in front of our members by someone from the centre.

"We need to put these matters to rest and we need to rebuild what is a damaged organisation."

Earlier, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey denied the claims of union interference into the Labour investigation and claimed emails were leaked to the Sunday Times as part of a Tory plot to discredit Ed Miliband.

"We didn't thwart anything. The Labour Party report was deeply flawed," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

Mr McCluskey conceded that Mr Deans had seen some of the retractions before they were made public, but said this was understandable as they had been written by members of Mr Deans' family.

"This is an ordinary decent family, who were suddenly faced with the full weight of the establishment - the police, a forensic solicitor. Of course they spoke to Stevie Deans."

'Acted swiftly'

The prime minister called Mr Deans "a rogue trade unionist" following his involvement in the Grangemouth dispute.

He was suspended by the site's owner Ineos over claims he used company time for political campaigning work, but his treatment prompted Unite to vote for strike action, including a ban on overtime, which led to a shutdown of the plant.

After the row between the union and Ineos escalated, the company threatened to close the plant completely after Unite refused to accept a survival plan which included a pay freeze and pension changes.

Ineos subsequently changed its mind following significant concessions from Unite.

Commenting on the latest allegations, a Labour Party spokesman said: "We've acted swiftly and thoroughly to uphold the integrity of the Labour Party throughout this matter and will continue to do so."

Police in Scotland, who earlier this year dropped an investigation into the Falkirk allegations, are studying the leaked emails.

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