Falkirk MP Eric Joyce condemns Unite for 'hubristic' constituency actions and says dispute will determine outcome of 2015 election

 

The outgoing Labour MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce, has blamed members of the Unite union for the bitter dispute over alleged-ballot rigging in the constituency that has seen Labour refer the matter to the police.

Mr Joyce, whose departure from the party after self-confessed "atrocious" behaviour in a bar brawl last year sparked the selection, said the outcome of the dispute "will determine whether Labour can win the 2015 general election".

In an article for The Guardian, he attacked the "amateur, hubristic and irresponsible actions of a small number of Unite officials at the top of the organisation" and said party rules would require further reform.

The referral of the case to the police had "raised the stakes to the highest level".

In the past unions had been a "stabilising influence" on the party in the town, he suggested, using their "putative power" sensibly in recruitment and selection.

But this time there appeared to be a deliberate effort to "swamp" the party with new members - and "hysterical" libel threats when the MP wrote about them online, he claimed.

Labour Party officials said they had contacted the Procurator Fiscal's Office in Scotland over claims Unite sought to pack the constituency party in Falkirk with its members to secure the selection of its favoured candidate for the safe Labour seat.

The move was angrily denounced by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey who dismissed the allegations as "nonsense" and accused the Labour leader of deliberately seeking a "punch-up" with the unions.

A defiant Mr Miliband hit back, accusing Mr McCluskey of defending "malpractice" and demanding he "face up to his responsibilities" as he sought to counter Tory efforts to exploit the controversy.

"Without Ed Miliband's decisive actions in commissioning the report, Unite would have pushed legitimate Labour members out of the way to install what would have been a Unite-first, Labour-second candidate and, quite likely, MP." Labour sources said the two men had not spoken directly since the beginning of June - highlighting the depth of the breakdown in relations.

In a further signal of his intent, Labour sources made clear Mr Miliband would speak out in the coming weeks about the "wider questions" it had raised about the historic close relationship between the party and the unions.

Some within the party would like to see the formal link with the trade union movement - which was behind Labour's founding in 1900 - broken, although Mr Miliband is not thought to have made any decision on taking such a bold step.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said however that he was "not aware of any review going on into Labour's relationship with the trade unions" and suggested it was not necessary.

"We engage with a broad spectrum of stakeholders... to come up with policy and we seek to govern in the interests of the British people," he told BBC2 's Newsnight.

"I don't believe it is a huge issue."

The decision to refer the matter to the police was said to have been taken after consulting the party's solicitor following the conclusion on Thursday of a review of its membership procedures by general secretary Iain MacNicol.

Labour sources said the review had unearthed further evidence in addition to the material which had been gathered during an internal inquiry which led to the Falkirk constituency party being placed in "special measures" on June 25. All the evidence collected will now be passed to the police.

They declined to detail the specific reasons for involving the police but indicated that members recruited via a - now axed - scheme allowing unions to pay fees for a short initial period "must be signed up legitimately, knowingly and willingly. And not with any conditions attached".

A party spokesman said they were awaiting guidance from the Procurator Fiscal over how to proceed with handing over their evidence.

Unite's preferred candidate in Falkirk, Karie Murphy, has already been suspended along with the constituency party chairman Stephen Deans.

Ms Murphy worked in the office of MP Tom Watson, the former union official who quit as the party's election co-ordinator in what he said was a bid to aid party unity, hitting out at anonymous briefings against him by shadow cabinet colleagues.

Mr Watson's departure from the shadow cabinet means he has also lost his place on the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), the party sources said.

Mr McCluskey said Unite would co-operate with the police inquiry but warned that it would not bring the matter to an end.

He said the party leadership's handling of the crisis had been "nothing short of disgraceful" and insisted that only an independent inquiry could get to the truth of what had happened in the constituency.

A clearly emotional Mr McCluskey accused Mr Miliband of deliberately picking a fight in an echo of Tony Blair's "Clause IV moment" when he got rid of Labour's historic commitment to collective ownership.

Asked if Mr McCluskey should consider his position if the allegations against his union were proved, a Labour source said: "Let's see where the police inquiries take us."

The Conservatives sought to press home their attack on Labour, Mr Cameron saying Mr Miliband had lost control of his party.

"It's quite clear the trade unions have far too much control over Labour. This has happened on Ed Miliband's watch. It is something of a scandal that is unfolding and he badly needs to grip it," he said.

Tories said they would be handing over to police a Unite document which they have obtained, listing 41 constituencies in which the union has supported candidates for selection.

They also claimed Labour had been "bounced" into contacting prosecutors after Conservative backbencher Henry Smith wrote to the Chief Constable of Scotland asking him to investigate - a claim Labour strongly denied.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "If people have been signed up to vote to choose new MPs without their knowledge, that's criminal activity and the police should be investigating.

"The crime would be they would have been signed up without their knowledge, so they've been impersonated.

"The police should have been investigating all along. He has had these allegations in front of him for weeks; he's done nothing about it."

He told BBC2's Newsnight Unite "clearly were trying to subvert the democratic process" and that selection processes should be suspended in all 40 constituencies.

PA

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

School Receptionist

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: School Receptionist - Part ...

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis