16 Mar 2015

Labour blocks McCluskey ally Karie Murphy from becoming MP – again

Relations between Ed Miliband and Unite the union are again under huge strain as a Labour party special panel blocked Unite candidate Karie Murphy from selection for a new candidate in Halifax.  The process follows the recent retirement of Labour MP Linda Riordan.

Karie Murphy, who is a close ally of Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was at the heart of the row in Falkirk two years ago and eventually forced to withdraw.  She is thought to have gained considerable support among ordinary party members in Halifax.

Her  removal from the selection process raises big questions about whether Unite will withdraw vital funding from the Labour campaign and £1.5 million that has been earmarked by the union for the election. It’s “disgraceful”, a senior Unite figure told me this afternoon.

The retiring sitting MP Linda Riordan is deeply upset at the way the  selection has been handled.  She has sent two emails to Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol complaining about the selection process.

Ed Miliband and his office have been desperately trying to block Karie Murphy in recent weeks, and have urged several women to put themselves forward after it was  deemed that Halifax should be an all-women shortlist.  I understand, however, that Fiona Twycross will also fail to make today’s long list.

Labour have revealed that at 10pm on Friday night they sent an email to all women members in the Yorkshire and Humberside region asking them to consider putting themselves forward for Halifax.

They included Stephenie “Steph” Booth, who stood in the nearby Calder Valley seat in 2010.  On Friday night she was sent by a Yorkshire organiser an email headed “Could you be the next MP for Halifax?”

“I got an email at 10pm on Friday night with a deadline or 9am this morning (Monday),” Steph Booth told me.  “I think there’s desperation setting in there – I’m not even on the list of parliamentary candidates.  It’s a  poisoned chalice, Halifax.  I think they are scrambling round to get Karie Murphy off the short-list.  I cannot believe what’s going on.  The local constituency will object strongly to Ed Miliband imposing somebody through the back door.”  Steph Booth says party HQ “have mishandled it phenomenally”.

Today the Labour panel will issue invitations to six women to attend a meeting in London tomorrow for interview. I have been told they are: Holly Walker-Lynch, Jo Coles, Dot Foster, Susan Hinchcliffe, Naveeda Ikram and Jenny Lynn

The panel will then draw up a short-list for a hustings meeting in Halifax on Saturday at which local members will hold the final vote on their nominee.

Halifax looks set to explode into a huge headache for Ed Miliband.

Senior figures in United are especially upset about the role which they believe the Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has played in blocking Karie Murphy.  Ms Harman, herself a Unite member, is one of just three members who were due to sit on today’s special selections panel.  “It is deeply regrettable that she has been inveigled into this,” one senior Unite source told me.  “I assume she was forced into this.” Harriet Harman has refused to comment.

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