Labour’s infighting continues as Miliband increases his control

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by a Newsnet reporter

The infighting within the ranks of the Labour party continues as Ed Miliband brings forward his plan to abolish elections to the Shadow Cabinet.

The complex rules within the Labour party have always given a Labour Prime Minister full say over the composition of his cabinet, but when out of power, party rules dictate that Shadow Cabinet positions can only be filled through party elections.

Ed Miliband will bring forward a motion at the next Labour conference to abolish this rule, giving him a free hand over the composition of his front bench team and greatly increasing his personal power within the party.  The plans to abolish elections to the Shadow Cabinet were announced several months ago.

The move clears the way for a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle.  Ann McKechin, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, is widely expected to be demoted having made almost no impact in the role since her election.  Ms McKechin obtained the post after Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander both made it clear that they did not want the job, which is now regarded within Westminster as one of minor importance.  Miliband will now be faced with finding a replacement for Ms McKechin. 

The moves comes as the party’s review of its structure in Scotland has failed to get Labour off the back foot in Scottish politics, and has instead exposed the chasms between the party’s councillors, MSPs and MPs.  While Labour claims to be devolving power within the party to Scotland, on a UK level they are increasing the authority wielded by the party leader.

In Scotland, the fall out from the party’s May humiliation continues.  The party’s attempts to deselect a large number of sitting Glasgow councillors, so called ‘dead wood’, in preparation for next year’s local elections have become mired in controversy as some 12 deselected councillors have announced their intention to appeal.  Many claim that the selection process was misconceived and poorly handled.  Some allege that the fate of certain councillors was decided even before the selection process began.  

According to a report in Thursday’s Herald newspaper, some councillors are even considering legal action against the party.  At least one councillor is reportedly considering applying for a court interdict to prevent a party meeting scheduled for September 22 where the approved candidates will be formally accepted.  Another two councillors allege that their rejection letters were dated before the day on which they were interviewed.

Many councillors point the finger at Ken Clark, director of the London Labour Party.  Mr Clark was seconded by Ed Miliband to work with the Labour party in Scotland for a year.   Previously Mr Clark created controversy amongst party members in East London with his instruction that any party member who worked alongside the elected mayor of the Borough of Tower Hamlets would be kicked out of the party.  Party members alleged that Mr Clark was exceeding his authority and acting as though he were a member of the “Politburo”. 

Many within the party in Glasgow feel that Mr Clark is now behaving in a similar manner in Scotland.  According to one councillor, “This is London Labour running Glasgow Labour.”

Reacting to the news of the latest bout of internal fighting to afflict the troubled Labour party, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, James Dornan, said:   

“The Labour party are in awful state internally right now, particularly in Glasgow.

“Instead of uniting the party the grand plan unveiled by Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack has had the opposite effect.

“The rebellion amongst Labour Councillors in Glasgow City Council is hardly surprising. They have always been more interested in their own pockets than the people of the city.

“Glasgow Labour has been a complete shambles for years but it’s just becoming bizarre just now. It is frankly frightening that these people have been running things in Scotland’s largest city.

“Rumours are also rife of the shadow Scotland Office minister being axed in the Ed’s first reshuffle.

“It is clear that Labour is not even fit for opposition never mind running Scotland’s largest city.”