Ed Miliband tells Channel 4 News the Falkirk affair “is undermining the good name” of his party, as Labour takes the dramatic step of referring its report on the matter to the police.
The Labour leader’s comments follow accusations from Unite general secretary Len McCluskey that Labour is involved in a “smear” campaign against his union.
Labour’s chief election co-ordinator Tom Watson has resigned over the issue and two party members – including Unite’s favoured candidate for the seat, Karie Murphy – have been suspended. The Falkirk constituency party has also been suspended.
Ed Miliband told Channel 4 News: “I’m incredibly angry about what’s been happening in Falkirk because it is undermining the good name of trade union members, of Labour party members and the Labour party, and I’m not going to have to have it.
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“And my message to Len McCluskey is very clear: instead of trying to defend the shabby practices that were going on in Falkirk, he should be facing up to them as a leader of Unite, the union.”
Asked if he would publish an internal report on Falkirk, he said: “At this stage, it doesn’t make sense to publish it. We’ve had confidential interviews with individuals. But I’ll tell you what’s in the Falkirk report.
“What’s in the Falkirk report is bad practice. Bad practice of members being signed up to the Labour party without their knowledge. That’s totally unacceptable.”
After the interview, Labour said it was referring the report to the police.
Mr Miliband’s hardline approach prompted Mr McCluskey to round on the Labour leader (watch interview above).
“The Labour leadership is now being caught up in anti-union, Tory hysteria,” he said.
In a letter to Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol on Thursday, Mr McCluskey said a party inquiry into claims the union tried to stitch up candidate selection was a “disgrace” and demanded an independent inquiry.
“I am obliged to uphold the integrity of Unite, and I can no longer do so on the basis of going along with the activities of a Labour party administration in which I can place no trust,” Mr McCluskey wrote.
Unite has been accused of cramming the Falkirk constituency party with 100 or more members whose subscriptions were paid by the union, some of them without their knowledge.
Mr Miliband has said he will end a scheme encouraging union members to join the party, with the union paying their subscriptions for the first year.
David Cameron accused Mr Miliband of losing control of his party, saying: “It’s quite clear the trade unions have far too much control over Labour. This has happened on Ed Miliband’s watch. It is something of a scandal that is unfolding and he badly needs to grip it.”