Labour’s selection plans for the beleaguered Falkirk constituency appear to be already dividing the party faithful.
A trade union has been accused of attempting to “stitch up” the process in an attempt to get its preferred candidate in place.
The seat is regarded as a Labour stronghold, but 12 months ago was in the headlines when sitting MP Eric Joyce appeared in court to admit assaulting four people in a House of Commons bar.
He subsequently resigned from the party, leaving the way open for a new candidate to be selected to fight the 2015 General Election.
Members of the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) received a communication last week on whether an all-woman shortlist (AWS) should be used for the safe seat.
The survey is being paid for by Unite, a union backing Karie Murphy for selection.
Ms Murphy is the office manager for Labour MP Tom Watson.
It is understood that Unite has also recruited over 100 members to the CLP.
Other contenders who have already thrown their hat into ring for the selection contest are Councillor Linda Gow, a former leader of Falkirk Council, and Gregor Poynton, the UK political director at communications firm Blue State Digital. He is from Falkirk and last July married West Dunbartonshire Labour MP Gemma Doyle.
The survey sent out asks: “Do you agree that Falkirk would benefit from an ‘All Woman Shortlist’ for the Westminster selection?”
A supplied freepost envelope is addressed to Unite’s London headquarters, and Stephen Deans, who is chairman of the Falkirk West CLP and chairman of Unite in Scotland.
One Labour insider said: “This is of great concern to members and is seen as an attempt to manipulate the process. It very much looks like a stitch up.”
Mrs Gow and Mr Poynton have now taken the unusual step of jointly writing to local members about the issue.
Their letter states: “We strongly believe all Falkirk members regardless of gender should have the opportunity to put themselves forward for selection.
“To have an AWS here after the past problems of the CLP is the wrong decision, at the wrong time.”
Yesterday (Wednesday), Mrs Gow said: “I have put my name forward to stand for the vacancy to make people aware I am interested. There are three candidates at the moment but more could come forward.
“After Dennis Canavan and the fallout that brought, then the difficulties with Eric Joyce, it is important the person selected to stand for MP unites the constituency.
“An open selection would ensure there is no resentment and allow everyone to get behind the candidate.”
Mr Deans has publicly confirmed his union had paid for the survey and said the results would be forwarded to the Scottish Labour Party.
A decision on whether an all woman shortlist will be used in Falkirk and other seats is expected to be made later this month.
A spokesman for the party said it was for Falkirk members to select their candidate.
He added that the decision on whether to have an all woman shortlist would be made by the party’s national executive committee but local members’ views would be considered.