3 Jul 2013

Battle of Falkirk gets murkier for Labour

Labour’s three most powerful figures are all embroiled in some way – Ed Miliband, Len McCluskey and Tom Watson.  And this morning a fourth figure,  Jim Murphy, entered the fray.

Details which I’ve been leaked, of Labour’s secret inquiry into Falkirk, show the report isn’t just about what the union Unite got up to in pursuit of getting its candidate selected.

I’m told the report says that in June last year – 2012 – 11 new members were recruited by Gregory Poynton, who was also a contender for the Labour nomination.

Unite’s Len McCluskey (Image: Getty)

Mr Poynton submitted a cheque for £130, which I’m told is against the rules, which say cheques can only for submitted for new members if those members all live at the same house, which in this case, apparently, they didn’t.

Mr Poynton refused to comment when I spoke to him this morning, but said he would get back to me later once he’d consulted the party.

Why does Mr Poynton’s recruitment activity matter?

First because he’s married to Gemma Doyle, the young Scottish MP who is a member of Labour’s Commons defence team under Jim Murphy. And second, Mr Poynton is the London political director of the firm Blue State Digital, which has a contract to provide campaigning work for the Labour party.

With that, and all the allegations about Unite recruiting dozens of new members in Falkirk without their knowledge, and seemingly against the rules, no wonder Labour big-wigs decided to keep the Falkirk report secret.

Unite’s activity was reportedly on behalf of Karie Murphy, a former chair of the Scottish Labour party, who works in Tom Watson’s office, and is also very close to the Unite leader Len McCluskey. And Mssrs Watson and McCluskey once shared a house.

Last night Unite issued an extremely angry statement over Labour’s decision last week to put the parliamentary selection process in Falkirk West into “special measures”.  It’s “at best an extreme over-reaction, at worst the product of an anti-union agenda,” Unite said.

The union claimed that on Monday some of their officials were finally allowed to read the report into Falkirk West on which last week’s decision was made, but not take a copy away.

Unite says that the report’s irregularities involve only a “handful” of new people, and so the “mass exclusion” of around 150 names from the future selection is “utterly disproportionate”.

Unite says Labour’s decision is “political in character” and “results from a desire from some in the party to minimise trade union involvement in parliamentary selections”.

This morning Jim Murphy hit out at Unite.  He told BBC News: “Something had gone really badly wrong in Falkirk when it came to the selection of the Labour candidate.

“I don’t blame the people locally – there’s clearly been some external interference. And while trade unions are an important part of a society and our politics, there seems to be one trade union in particular that’s well and truly overstepped the mark.

“It’s clear that Unite don’t run the Labour party; Ed Miliband does. And we should never confuse those two things.”

I have also learned that two of the complaints in Labour’s Falkirk report were submitted on people’s behalf by a local councillor, Linda Gow, who is still a contender for the nomination.

“If people share their concerns with you, you’re obviously obliged to pass their concerns on,” she tells me.  Mrs Gow denies recruiting anyone herself.  “I didn’t even have my husband as a member,” she says.  Mrs Gow’s critics argue she was hardly a disinterested party.

Friends of Gregory Poynton insist he did nothing wrong. They say he was not contacted by the Labour party inquiry and say
that if he had been implicated the party would have contacted him for a response.

It looks like it’s developing into a huge battle for Labour in the run-up to this autumn conference. And a huge headache for Ed Miliband.

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13 reader comments

  1. Brian Capaloff says:

    The impact of judicial editing of Unite’s statement in this blog is to imply their acceptance that some members may have been incorrectly recruited. Their statement does not accept this at all. It accepts that the decision was based upon a few cases – rather different!

  2. Peter A Bell says:

    Interesting that the (nominal) leaders of British Labour in Scotland appear to have been totally sidelined by their masters in London.

  3. Philip says:

    If this was happening all over the country, it might be a story. As it is, it’s murky dealings in a single constituency. I suspect the Labour Party have a lot more things to get worried about than this. isn’t this storm in a teacup territory?

  4. teddy mcnabb says:

    and to think Big Ben Len who always chimes but never strikes backed Ed to the tune of a £100k of hard – working rank & file,s money,

  5. orkers says:

    I’m sure I read in ‘Private Eye’ that brother Len is in trouble over his election as leader of Unite?

    A wee pauchle Len?

  6. Bill Cruickshank says:

    Labour in Scotland are no longer fit for purpose on three counts:
    1. They no longer represent the interests of the working poor, the sick, the vulnerable and the elderly.
    2. The leadership in Scotland has no autonomy, lacks intellect and clarity of vision and is incapable of independent thought and action.
    3. Labour is devoid of policy and offers no hope of a more socially just Scotland.

    The Labour Party is now an irrelevance in Scotland as Scots move towards self determination. Roll on September 2014 and the opportunity to work towards a socially just, independent and nuclear free Scotland.

  7. HenBroon says:

    Would it not be grand if Michael Crick were to come to Scotland and locate Johann Lamonts bunker for an interview on this subject. After all she claims to be the leader of the Scottish Labour party, a party that does not exist in the public records. However on this as on Trident and the Bedroom Tax and many other Tory policies she supports, she remains deathly silent between weekly bouts of scripted First Ministers Questions. Is she a puppet?

  8. CharlesP says:

    As Henbroon, above, comments, the name ‘Scottish Labour’ appears in no Public Records and their Leader, Johann Lamont voted against Scottish Devolution, yet sits at the Head of a Group who are but the offshoot of The London Labour Establishment whose Policies are indistinguishable from the two Parties of the Governing Coalition, each of which gained a mere handful of votes in Scotland at the last General Election!

    What we have now in England is a Dictatorship by tripartite agreement of the three main Parties who no longer represent Scotland in any way whatsoever. You did not need to wait for Falkirk to happen, Glasgow City Council has been mired in illegality of every sort for Generations!

    I regret every vote I ever cast for Labour and can see no alternative to Independence!

  9. richard mackinnon says:

    With 14 months to go before the independence referendum I predict that by then most Labour supporters in Scotalnd will have come round to the Yes side. The political system at Westminster is broken and cannot be fixed. Illegal wars started by Labour and supported by the Torries. Austerity introduced by the Tories is backed by Labour. All the parties at Westminster and the civil service recruit from the same universities and schools. Priveldge, patronage and nepotism abound.
    The infighting in Labour over the Falkirk candidacy is a perfect example of why the Scottish electorate is turning on Labour. Labour’s Scottish leadership have not even been consulted on the ‘special measures’ imposed on Falkirk CLP.
    The chance to rid ourselves of London rule will not be missed.

  10. sean connor says:

    I will never vote Labour again. The present leadership of the party are pygmies when compared with the Attlees, Bevans, Castles, Wilsons and Benns of the Labour Party. All the Labour party are interested in is sitting room politics, where the leaders take the decision and the Party membership, the poor and disabled are ignored. The Milibands and Balls of this world worship at the altar of economic Liberalism and the politics of austerity. The treatment of UNITE is disgusting. If I were Scottish I would vote for independence. The Labour Party is finished, it now represents big business and no one else.

  11. gman says:

    note that Blue State Digital also work for the Better Together Campaign – all very incestuous.

  12. Colin Finch says:

    Another wee storm in the media tea cup I suspect.

Comments are closed.