Labour hands evidence of Falkirk ‘ballot-rigging’ by Unite to police
The selection row has sparked the worst crisis of Miliband's time as leader
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 05 July 2013
Ed Miliband’s dispute with its biggest financial backer took a dramatic twist when Labour decided to hand over evidence of alleged ballot-rigging by Unite to the police.
As he tried to reassert his authority, a furious Mr Miliband was locked in a damaging war of words with Len McCluskey, the union’s left-wing leader. It is understood that some of the 100 members recruited by Unite in the Falkirk constituency in Scotland were asked to allow others to cast votes on their behalf.
The controversy erupted when Unite tried to install Karie Murphy, office manager of the senior Labour figure Tom Watson, as Labour’s candidate in Falkirk at the 2015 election. Mr Watson resigned as Labour’s election campaign co-ordinator on Thursday. Ms Murphy and Stephen Deans, chairman of both Falkirk Labour Party and Unite in Scotland, were suspended by the party on the same day after Labour found evidence of malpractice.
This did not emerge during Labour’s initial investigation into the Falkirk party but when Labour officials mounted a wider inquiry into a scheme allowing unions to pay the first-year subscriptions of members they recruited to the party. It has now been scrapped. A Labour source said the scheme should have been used only to sign up members “legitimately, knowingly and willingly with no conditions attached.”
After taking advice from its solicitor, Labour yesterday telephoned the office of Scotland’s Procurator Fiscal to ask how to hand over its documentary evidence to the police. This will be done shortly.
The Conservatives claimed Labour was panicked into this course after learning that Henry Smith, a Tory MP, was about to ask the Scottish Police to investigate whether Unite had committed fraud in Falkirk. Labour insisted its action had nothing to do with the Tories’ intervention. Labour hopes its move will show the public it takes the allegations seriously.
During a round of TV interviews, Mr Miliband declared that he was “incredibly angry.” He said: “We had members being signed up without their knowledge, bad practice, malpractice and, frankly, instead of defending that kind of thing, Len McCluskey should be condemning it… [He] should be facing up to his responsibilities. He should not be defending the machine politics.”
The Unite leader hit back, accusing Mr Miliband of seeking a “punch-up” with the unions. He said: "As far as Unite are concerned, we have done nothing wrong. We are being attacked mercilessly by the media. We've had Shadow Cabinet members saying that Unite has 'overstepped the mark'. What does that mean? We asked too many of our members to join the Labour Party. We should have told them that the Labour Party was full up perhaps? It is a nonsense."
Mr McCluskey said Unite would co-operate with the police inquiry but warned that it would not bring the matter to an end, and demanded an independent investigation. A Labour aide replied: “He has got an independent inquiry - by the police.”
Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, said: “If Ed Miliband is serious about stopping Len McCluskey’s takeover of the Labour Party, then he should freeze all 41 candidate selections that Unite admit it’s rigging, and refuse to take a single penny more of Len McCluskey’s cash.”
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
Nepal earthquake: The race is on to help thousands trapped under rubble around Kathmandu, while remote villages face a long wait for help
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...