4 Jul 2013

United we stand: Labour’s secret Falkirk West report

I’ve been hearing more about the Labour party’s secret report into what’s been going on in Falkirk West.

First, as I have said, I’m told that it points out that in June 2012 one of the non-Unite contenders for the seat, Greg Poynton, recruited 11 new members and submitted a cheque for £130 to pay for their subscriptions.  The report does not criticise or condemn Mr Poynton for this, simply because nobody complained about his activity.  And Mr Poynton was not contacted by the inquiry to respond.

The question arises why nobody at  Scottish Labour HQ spotted what Mr Poynton had done, especially with a selection in the offing.  It seems to have been in breach of the rules which prohibit recruitment with single cheques (unless the recruits all live at the same address).

Some suspect nobody noticed because Poynton was the preferred candidate of the Scottish Labour hierarchy.  Mr Poynton is married to the MP Gemma Doyle, and Ms Doyle is a member of Jim Murphy’s defence team.

Eleven members may not sound a great number, but in a constituency with fewer than 200 members – and some say it was a lot fewer – they could have made all the difference.  And crucially Mr Poynton’s new recruits were all within the 6-month time period, whereas some of Unite’s dubious recruits might have been too late.

Mr Poynton has made no attempt to deny he recruited these people.  What his activity shows is that it wasn’t just Unite which was signing people up, though it seems fairly clear that the union was breaking the rules too.

I am also told that the Falkirk inquiry only received two complaints from recruited “members” about Unite’s recruitment efforts, and that both of these complaints were presented to them through the third contender for the seat, Linda Gow, a Falkirk councillor.

True, the titbits from the report which I’ve been given are probably selective,  But these morsels do suggest that this story a lot more complicated than some people have been suggesting, and probably a lot more complicated than I realise.

What amazes me, though, is how cack-handed and unsubtle these recruitment efforts were – by all sides.  More amateur than student politics.

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