Labour MSP in leverage protest row denies taking part

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
A Labour MSP at the centre of a row after being photographed at a so-called ‘leverage’ protest organised by trade union Unite has denied taking part.
 
Drew Smith has come under pressure to resign after he appeared alongside protestors who were taking part in the demonstration that took place at the height of the Grangemouth dispute.

However in a statement issued by the Labour party, the MSP has denied being part of the protest and instead has claimed he only approached the protest to say hello.

A Labour spokesman said: “Drew was canvassing in the area for the Dunfermline by-election.  He spotted the Unite flags and some faces he recognised and wandered over to say ‘hello’.

“A more experienced politician would have stood back; certainly, standing to be photographed wasn’t advisable.”

Leverage protests have created controversy with opponents of the action claiming it is an attempt at intimidation.  The Grangemouth protests saw groups gather outside the homes of management at the site.

The MSP’s presence at one protest, outside the home of an Ineos Director, was revealed by the Sunday Herald newspaper.  The target of the 30 strong group was at home with his wife and two young children who were said to have been frightened by the protest which included a giant inflatable rat.

News of Mr Smith’s presence brought immediate calls for his resignation from the local MP.

Commenting at the weekend, former Labour MP Eric Joyce, who resigned from the party after being convicted of assault said Mr Smith should resign immediately.

He said: “This image of a Labour shadow cabinet member smiling as he takes part in a leverage squad outside someone’s house is thoroughly nauseating.  He should resign immediately.

“The Scottish shadow cabinet doesn’t feel like a serious prospect at the moment.  Members are content to operate at the level of the local councillor which some of them remain.”

According to newspapers, other Labour figures in the photograph with Mr Smith include Helen Stephen, his parliamentary assistant, and Michael Sharpe, son of the Labour MP Cathy Jamieson, who is part of the shadow chancellor Ed Balls’ Treasury team.

The issue piles more pressure on Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont whose inability to take decisive action over the growing controversy over the actions of the Unite union has led to claims she has no real power.

The union is at the centre of allegations of vote rigging in Falkirk with claims it tried to ensure its own favoured candidate won a Labour party selection process. 

Calls from Ms Lamont and Labour MP Alistair Darling for the original inquiry to be re-opened have been ignored by UK leader Ed Miliband.