The selection process to find a candidate to fight the Falkirk seat at Westminster for Labour has been suspended.
The party made the announcement just days before the process was to begin.
Following claims the Unite union had recruited dozens of its members to Falkirk Constituency Labour Party (CLP), Labour bosses are to investigate “concerns” which have been raised about the impact they could have on the process before it restarts its search for a replacement for Eric Joyce .
Last month local party vice-chairman Richard Bryce blamed divisions within the branch for his decision to resign.
Local consultation – paid for by Unite – into whether an all-woman shortlist should be used was abandoned after complaints from senior members of the CLP the poll was flawed.
However, last week CLP chairman Steven Deans announced the party’s executive had agreed that the shortlist would be an all-woman, with this supported by a near-unanimous vote by the CLP.
Unite have been backing union left-winger Karie Murphy, who runs the office of Labour’s election co-ordinator Tom Watson.
Other possible contenders were former Falkirk Council leader Linda Gow; Greg Poynton, UK political director for communications firm Blue State Digitial and former CLP chairman Martin Murray, who, because of party re-organisation is now a member of Falkirk East CLP.
It is understood allegations made to party bosses centre on the signing-up processes involved in recruiting the Unite members
A Labour spokesman said: “We have suspended the start of the selection process of the Falkirk parliamentary seat. We will carry out an investigation to ensure the integrity of the process.”
A Unite spokesman said: “We are fully confident our conduct has fully complied with the rules.”
Mr Joyce, who left the party last year after being fined £3000 for assaulting a Tory MP in a Commons bar, became involved in the situation when he warned that unless party leader Ed Miliband takes control of Labour’s selection of the candidate for Falkirk he would consider standing down to force a by-election.
His intervention was almost immediately criticised, with former MP and MSP Dennis Canavan among those speaking out.
In last week’s Falkirk Herald we misquoted Ms Murphy as saying that she had withdrawn from the selection process. Ms Murphy in fact said that she had taken the first steps towards withdrawing, as she felt this would dampen down the negative press coverage the constituency party was receiving, by speaking to her trade union and the national party. However, as a result of the support she was given, she was reconsidering her position. We apologise for this error.