LABOUR SELECTION ROW: Unite vows to fight executive decision

David Blunkett has called for an end to the in-fighting
David Blunkett has called for an end to the in-fighting

The row over who should stand for Labour in Falkirk at the next General Election rumbles on.

Last week the the party was rocked by allegations that Unite, the biggest union in the country, was trying to ‘fix’ the outcome by recruting members so they could vote for the candidate it wants.

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Labour then confirmed the selection process was under major scrutiny and ‘‘special measures’’ were in place.

That move effectively barred anyone who had joined Falkirk Constituency Labour Party after March 12 last year from having a vote.

Now Unite has hit back by claiming it has done nothing wrong and the decision to “rush ahead” with the process is unjustified.

It even threatened legal action over the ongoing row.

General Secretary Len McCluskey claimed: “The party nationally has arbitrarily excluded all those members from any participation in the process to choose the next Labour parliamentary candidate in the constituency.

‘‘It has taken the shortlisting of candidates for selection out of the hands of the CLP and given it to a special panel.

‘‘The aim of the first decision is to exclude trade unionists from the selection process and the aim of the second is presumably to block any possibility of the Unite-supported candidate being chosen.”

Mr McCluskey said: “It is certainly our belief that Labour needs more trade unionists in Parliament, as opposed to seats being handed out on a grace and favour basis to Oxbridge educated ‘special advisors’ and we make no apology for that.”

Unite is convinced 150 members have been disenfranchised by the ban and vowed to try to overturn the decision when Labour’s ruling National Executive meets later this month.

Unite officials have now had the chance to see the findings of the report ordered by the Labour Party into what has been going on within the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party. It says it has found little or no evidence to suggest any wrong doing.

In a statement Unite insisted: “These circumstances only reinforce Unite’s conviction this investigation and report are essentially political and result from the publicly-stated desire of some elements in the Party to minimise trade union involvement in parliamentary selections.”

The situation has attracted comments from major political players.

Former home secretary David Blunkett warned this week Labour was in danger of becoming a “party of the graveyard” if it tilted too far to the left and urged leader Ed Miliband to avoid the in-fighting which ruined Labour’s chances of power in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the same time former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has dismissed the criticism of Unite’s actions in Falkirk. He said he is “delighted” the trade union has recruited more members.