The row over who should be selected to stand as Falkirk’s next Labour MP has forced a re-think of the party’s links with the trade unions.
Leader Ed Miliband announced on Tuesday there will be changes to the way union members give money to his party.
The selection process to find a candidate to retain the seat which will be vacated by Eric Joyce in 2015 has been suspended following claims Labour’s biggest backers Unite tried to “fix” the vote.
It is alleged it paid for as many as 100 of its members to join the Falkirk Constituency Labour Party to guarantee its preferred candidate Karie Murphy got through.
Concerns some had joined the Labour Party without their knowledge saw the selection process being suspended and the National Executive Committee taking charge. Mr Miliband ordered an inquiry into what was going on and its findings have now been handed to police to investigate possible “identity fraud”.
In the meantime Stephen Deans, chairman of Falkirk CLP and Unite in Scotland and Ms Murphy, reportedly a close friend of Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, have both been suspended.
In an effort to repair the apparent rift between the party and its ‘bankers’ Mr Miliband announced union members will no longer automatically pay a £3 fee from their subscriptions to be affiliated to Labour and instead have to opt in. He claimed Falkirk represented “part of the death throes of the old politics” and an “open, transparent and trusted” era was on its way.
Veteran Falkirk Councillor Dennis Goldie, a Unite member and former chair of Falkirk CLP, said: “This has not been an issue about trade unions recruiting members to the Labour Party, that has always been the case. On this occasion, there appears to have been a massive breakdown in adhering to the rules and that’s not acceptable.”