Lamont silence questioned as Falkirk crisis engulfs Labour

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The Scottish National Party has criticised the silence of Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont as the crisis engulfing the party over the Falkirk candidate selection process escalated.
 
Relations between the party and its biggest donor the Unite union have worsened with the trade union accusing the Labour leadership of pursuing an “anti-trade union agenda” and Unite’s leader openly warning Ed Miliband against listening to two senior Scottish Labour MPs.

It has emerged that, along with Unite, another two contenders in the selection process have also been accused of having recruited new Labour party members in order to help their own chances of success in the process to select a candidate to replace Eric Joyce.

Joyce was expelled by Labour after being involved in a series of controversial incidents, one which ended with the former Labour MP being convicted of assault.

Labour claim the Unite union had attempted to rig the replacement process by flooding the constituency with new members in an attempt at ensuring its own preferred candidate was chosen.  However the union hit back accusing the Labour party of running a smear campaign and singling out Scottish Labour MPs, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander.

It has also emerged that details of an internal investigation carried out by Labour, which was kept secret, have been leaked to Channel 4 news and reveals that others involved in the selection process may also have been recruiting new Labour party members.

According to Channel 4 reporter, Michael Crick, one man said to have tried to recruit new members and who paid the fee of £130 himself was Gregory Poynton – himself a contender to replace Eric Joyce.

Mr Crick also revealed that Poynton’s wife, Labour MP Gemma Doyle, is a member of Scottish Labour MP Jim Murphy’s Shadow Defence team.  The Channel 4 reporter suggested the links to Murphy may have been part of the reason for the report remaining secret.

Mr Crick wrote: “Why does Mr Poynton’s recruitment activity matter?

“First because he’s married to Gemma Doyle, the young Scottish MP who is a member of Labour’s Commons defence team under Jim Murphy.  And second, Mr Poynton is the London political director of the firm Blue State Digital, which has a contract to provide campaigning work for the Labour party.

“With that, and all the allegations about Unite recruiting dozens of new members in Falkirk without their knowledge, and seemingly against the rules, no wonder Labour big-wigs decided to keep the Falkirk report secret.”

Murphy (pictured) launched a bitter attack on the trade union yesterday after it called the decision by Labour to seize control of the selection process as “political in character” and “results from a desire from some in the party to minimise trade union involvement in parliamentary selections”

The East Renfrewshire MP told BBC News: “Something had gone really badly wrong in Falkirk when it came to the selection of the Labour candidate.

“I don’t blame the people locally – there’s clearly been some external interference.  And while trade unions are an important part of a society and our politics, there seems to be one trade union in particular that’s well and truly overstepped the mark.

“It’s clear that Unite don’t run the Labour party; Ed Miliband does.  And we should never confuse those two things.”

Responding to Mr Murphy’s comments, Unite Chief Len McCluskey warned Labour leader Ed Miliband that he would be: “cast into the dustbin of history” if he allowed himself to be seduced by Scottish Labour MPs Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander.

“If he [Ed Miliband] gets seduced by the Jim Murphys and the Douglas Alexanders, then the truth is that he’ll be defeated and he’ll be cast into the dustbin of history.”

Some members of the Unite union were allowed to read the secret report and immediately criticised Labour’s move, calling it an “extreme over-reaction”.

According to Mr Crick, one other candidate was also suspected of having recruited members in order to help her own chances of selection.  Local councillor, Linda Gow, denies the allegation.

Commenting on the ongoing controversy, Angus MacDonald, SNP MSP for Falkirk East, said:

“The people of Falkirk deserve so much better.  Time and time again they have been let down by Labour – it is time for a change.

“Local people were first let down by Labour by the behaviour of Eric Joyce, and they have been let down by Labour all over again with their party’s candidate selection scandal.

“This is a hugely serious issue – yet all we have had is silence from Johann Lamont, who is supposed to be leader of Labour’s Scottish Westminster MPs.  Unless Ms Lamont gets a grip of this crisis, she is confirming that the shots are all being called by the real Labour bosses in London.

“The people of Falkirk should be able to elect a new MP – there ought to be a by-election, and the sooner the better.”