Scotland politics

Ed Miliband: 'No regret' over Unite union row

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Media captionEd Miliband says he has 'no regret' over Falkirk

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he has no regrets over his handling of vote-rigging allegations in Falkirk.

The claims led to a major rift between Labour and the Unite union, which had been accused of trying to fix the selection of a Labour candidate.

A party investigation later found that no rules had been broken.

Brian Capaloff, a member of Falkirk Labour and Unite, said the lack of an apology was "disappointing" and that Mr Miliband "should have regrets".

Speaking ahead of Labour's conference in Brighton, which begins on Sunday, Mr Miliband said the correct procedures had been followed at every stage.

Unite, which is Labour's largest financial backer, had been accused of trying to sign up members without their knowledge in the constituency to ensure its favoured candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected.

Ms Murphy and fellow Unite official Stevie Deans, who was chair of the local Labour Party, were reinstated after being cleared of any wrongdoing. They had been suspended by the party while the investigation was carried out.

But Ms Murphy withdrew from the contest to be Labour's general election candidate in Falkirk, saying she had done so in the interest of "reconciliation and unity".

The allegations prompted Mr Miliband to propose widespread changes to Labour's historic links with the trade union movement, which would remove the automatic payment of fees by millions of union members to the party.

When asked by BBC Scotland political correspondent Tim Reid whether he regretted the way the affair had been handled, Mr Miliband responded: "No, because I think with every stage in the process we have followed the correct procedures, we even sent the report to the police to see whether there was any grounds for criminal action.

"The candidate around whom there was controversy is no longer going to be the candidate, the constituency remains in special measures, the scheme under which people joined has been suspended and we're embarked on a major reform of our party, so I think all the way along we've followed the right process."

'Moving on'

Mr Miliband said Ms Murphy and Mr Deans had been reinstated "because the people who were in charge of the processes for any disciplinary action in the Labour Party after the police investigation, after the police looked at this, took a judgement that there weren't grounds to proceed".

He added: "But as I say, I think what is important in this is that the candidate around whom there was the original controversy has withdrawn and now the Labour Party is moving on to look at the big reforms that our party needs, so we can be a party genuinely of working people.

"And for the people of Falkirk we need to select another candidate who I hope can represent them after the next general election."

Mr Miliband said Ms Murphy had made the "right decision" to stand down as a prospective candidate given the controversy, adding: "I think her decision has drawn a line under this, and now the Labour party in Falkirk and elsewhere is moving on."

However, Mr Capaloff said: "What has gone on has had a very damaging impact on moral.

"What Ed Miliband needs to do is get on a train and come and meet members here in Falkirk, who have been distinctly absent from any considerations.

"He should come and speak to us and say why he has no regrets. He should have regrets.

"The imposition of special measures on the local party was done to gain publicity. It was extremely heavy-handed.

"The very least he could do would be to say we could have handled this better."

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