Unite union cleared over Falkirk vote-rigging allegations

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By Lynda Williamson

The Labour party leadership has been thrown into disarray after an internal inquiry found that no rules had been broken during the débâcle surrounding the candidate selection process in Falkirk.

The selection process was sparked by the resignation of Eric Joyce MP following his conviction for assault. Unite was accused of trying to rig the process, in order to support their favoured candidate Katie Murphy, by signing up members without their knowledge.

Ms Murphy and local party chairman Stevie Deans were suspended from the party during the investigation. Katie Murphy worked for Tom Watson MP who resigned from the shadow cabinet in protest at the way the leadership handled the allegations.

Both Ms Murphy and Mr Deans have now been reinstated with a party spokesperson claiming:

“Since Labour began its internal process key evidence has been withdrawn and further evidence provided by individuals concerned.

“No organisation or individual has been found to have breached the rules as they stood at the time.”

Ms Murphy has however, withdrawn from the selection process in the interests of “reconciliation and unity”. She released a statement in which she says:

“Throughout the controversy surrounding what we consider to be the revitalisation work in Falkirk both Stevie Deans and myself have maintained that we have done nothing wrong and that our union Unite has done nothing wrong.

“The media attention on Falkirk has centred on candidate selection and, whilst having MPs who represent the values of ordinary working people is very important, our objective of getting ordinary members actively involved in a vibrant local party has been forgotten in media coverage.”

The affair is embarrassing for Labour leader Ed Miliband who has been accused of jumping the gun with his proposed wide ranging changes to the relationship between the trade unions and the Labour party. He wants trade union members who are paying the political levy to be asked whether they wish to be affiliated to the Labour party.

The reforms sparked a furious row between the unions and the Labour party leadership which led to the GMB’s decision to slash its funding of the party from £1.2 million to £150,000, a move which is likely to result in funding difficulties for future election campaigns.

Tom Watson commented saying:

“I think the most charitable thing I can say about that is I don’t think the party leadership were in full possession of the facts when they took the decisions they did.

“Had they known the facts I’m sure they wouldn’t have made such rash decisions.”

The whole stramash will be seen as a further blow to Mr Miliband’s embattled leadership which has seen a recent decline in his party’s poll ratings amid criticism from the centre left of the party of his lacklustre personal ratings.