London failure to act over Falkirk leaves Lamont exposed say SNP

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been left exposed by the failure of her London bosses to act in Faklirk, the SNP has claimed.

Following newspaper reports linking her own Scottish party chairman to the vote rigging scandal, the SNP has called on the beleagured Labour MSP, who is herself a member of the Unite union, to clean up the mess for the sake of the people of Falkirk.

According to the Herald newspaper, emails have revealed party chairman Jackson Cullinane was in contact with leaders of the Unite union as it tried to secure the selection of its preferred prospective parliamentary candidate.

The newspaper has revealed that emails sent from the Scottish Labour Chair were copied to Unite’s Scottish head Pat Rafferty.  In other emails a Unite official in London discusses paying new member fees by cheque, adding “one they haven’t even written themselves”.

This revelations pile further pressure on Ms Lamont who so far has refused to hold her own inquiry into the issue which has festered for months.  Despite signalling her own desire to re-open the original Labour party inquiry, the Scottish Labour leader has failed to convince her party boss Ed Miliband.

The issue threatens to split Labour with former Chancellor Alistair Darling joined this weekend by former Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish with both men calling for the inquiry to be re-opened.

“The public, the Labour party and Unite members deserve to know what actually took place, so I would support an inquiry,” Mr McLeish said.

He added: “We have to treat the public with respect and the only way we can do that – and I know it hurts and there may be some difficult things to reveal – is to be transparent with them.

“There is a lot of public disillusionment. People think political parties operate in a different world.

“We have to prove to the public we can be big enough to acknowledge some embarrassment, some criticism, some difficulties – that’s the way to win back trust, not to pretend you can’t divulge it.”

According to the Sunday Times, Scottish Labour’s ruling executive committee has been denied permission by the UK party to see the report of its inquiry into Falkirk.  However in a recent BBC interview Johann Lamont claimed she had indeed seen the report.

Commenting, SNP MSP Michael Matheson said:

“The people of Falkirk deserve so much better than this, which is why I’m calling on Johann Lamont to clear up her party’s mess once and for all.

“This is a damning revelation and means Ms Lamont can no longer get away with saying nothing of substance on the issue.

“Despite the fact she is supposed to be leader of the whole Labour Party in Scotland, Ms Lamont has stood by and watched her party implode in Falkirk without doing anything – given this new evidence, she can no longer leave this matter to her party bosses in London.”

The vote rigging allegations surfaced after a selection process to chose a replacement candidate for disgraced MP Eric Joyce got underway.  There were claims that people had been signed up as members of Labour without their knowledge.

The Unite union was cleared after an inquiry carried out by the Labour party found no evidence of vote rigging.  However the issue spilled over into the Grangemouth refinery and almost led to the closure of the plant.

It ignited again after the owners of the Grangemouth plant handed internal emails, sent by Unite official Stevie Deans, over to the Sunday Times newspaper which they claimed showed the official conducting Labour party business whilst working at the plant.  Mr Deans subsequently resigned from his role at the plant.