UK Labour refers Falkirk row to police

05.07.2013 16:23

Labour is to refer a report into
allegations of irregularities in the
selection of an election candidate in
Falkirk to the police.
Party leader Ed Miliband has said an
internal inquiry into events shows people
were being signed up to Labour without
their knowledge.
Two local party members have been
suspended and Labour HQ has stepped
in to run the selection race.
The Unite union has said the report is a
"stitch-up" designed to smear it.
Its general secretary Len McCluskey
denies claims that his union, one of
Labour's biggest financial backers, tried
to rig the contest to select a general
election candidate in Falkirk and said on
Thursday he had "no trust" in the party
after the row.
'Good name'
But Mr Miliband has dismissed his smear
claims as "total nonsense" and said that,
instead of defending these practices, Mr
McCluskey should be "facing up to what
happened in Falkirk.
"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
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."
Mr Miliband's attempt to reassert his
authority and show that he is not
prepared to be pushed around by the
unions was dismissed by the
Conservatives, who said he should have
acted sooner.
A Tory spokesman said: "This is
followship, not leadership, from Ed
Miliband. Why didn't he refer Falkirk to
the police days ago?
"The answer is that Henry Smith, a
Conservative MP, yesterday wrote a
public letter to the Chief Constable of
Scotland, calling for a fraud inquiry.
"So weak Ed Miliband has been forced to
hand himself in.
"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."
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.
But in a letter to Labour's general
secretary, Mr McCluskey said the union
had "nothing whatsoever to do" with the
alleged attempt to sign 100 or more
members to the constituency party
without their knowledge.
"The report has been used to smear
Unite and its members," he said. "It is
noteworthy that members of the shadow
cabinet have been in the lead in initiating
this attack."
Mr McCluskey said Labour's internal
investigation was "simply a stitch-up"
designed to "produce some evidence,
however threadbare, to justify
predetermined decisions". He demanded
an independent inquiry into the events in
"I, however, am obliged to uphold the
integrity of Unite, and I can no longer do
so on the basis of going along with the
activities of a Labour Party
administration in which I can place no
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
Falkirk selection row: Who's
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 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: 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: 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.