An independent inquiry will be launched today into allegations that one of Gordon Brown's principal political allies in the union movement was elected by a rigged ballot.
Supporters of Kevin Curran, general secretary of the GMB union, a major financial donor to the Labour Party, are accused of a scam in which possibly thousands of voting forms were sent to "safe houses". His backers are also accused of unlawfully using the GMB's money to fund his campaign.
Mr Curran's backers allegedly voted for him on behalf of workers who had died, left the union or failed to pay subscriptions. It is said that the addresses of the "ghost members" were altered so that the forms were dispatched to houses where Mr Curran's supporters would fill the forms in.
A union spokesman said the GMB general secretary denied any involvement or any knowledge of misuse of union money or the alleged fraud, which was said to have taken place during the elections early last year. "He had no control over where ballot papers were sent," the spokesman said. "If there were flaws in the membership system, those flaws have been dealt with since he became general secretary."
Since his election Mr Curran has tended to ally himself with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and has been a leading critic of the Prime Minister.
The general purposes committee of the 700,000-member union will set out the terms of reference today for an independently chaired inquiry into the alleged fraud. It is understood that Matthias Kelly QC, who recently conducted an investigation into the affairs of the train drivers' union Aslef, may be asked to chair a panel of inquiry.
The committee will be asked to investigate a number of further allegations. It is suggested that the general secretary's supporters unlawfully used union funds in support of his campaign to become general secretary. It is also said that a million leaflets were distributed during the election campaign in support of Mr Curran, that paid staff from the TUC were brought in to help his campaign, and that a "phone bank" was established to boost Mr Curran's chances. A TUC spokesperson said: "No member of TUC staff was seconded to work for Kevin Curran's election campaign. A member of TUC staff was seconded to the GMB to work as a media officer for the union and produce a report on engaging young people with the union. The staff member's pay was met by the GMB for this period but they played no part in Mr Curran's election campaign."
The union spokesman said Mr Curran denied the allegations, regarding them as "defamatory and vexatious". He would, however, co-operate with the inquiry.
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