The Labour Party has officially cleared Unite of attempting to rig Falkirk Labour Party’s selection process for its next general election candidate.
Over the summer months Unite had been accused of signing up union members as Labour Party members without their consent and filling in direct debit instructions by forging their signatures.
Two Unite members of Falkirk Labour Party, Karie Murphy and Stevie Deans, were suspended from party membership.
The former was Unite’s preferred candidate for the selection process. The latter, a deputy convenor in his workplace, was subsequently suspended by his employer, who backed down only after having been threatened with strike action.
The local Labour Party was placed under ‘special measures’, meaning that the selection process would be run by head office. A ‘freeze date’ for participation in the selection process was imposed which excluded the hundred-plus Unite members who had joined Falkirk Labour Party.
The dossier containing the allegations of wrongdoing was handed over to the police. And the issue was also used to justify a series of proposed party ‘reforms’ aimed at undermining the role played by trade unions in the Labour Party.
But now even the Labour Party has had to admit that there was no truth to any of the allegations and that Unite had not breached any Labour Party rules. The two suspended members have been re-instated.
This, however, is only the first step in what should now be done.
The ‘special measures’ and ‘freeze date’ should be scrapped. Given that the allegations have found to be entirely spurious, control over the selection process should be handed back to the local Labour Party.
The dossier of false allegations should be published. Even now the party members who were suspended and then re-instated have not seen any of the ‘evidence’ put forward as a basis for their suspension.
The Labour Party Compliance Unit employee and the member of Scottish Young Labour who drew up the dossier containing the false allegations should be called to account.
So too should all other Labour Party officials and office-holders who joined in the attack on Unite. This would include MPs such as Jim Murphy who gave anti-Unite briefings to the media and party officials who advocated the suspension of Unite at a national level from party affiliation.
Ed Miliband should publically apologise to Karie Murphy, Deans, Falkirk Labour Party and Unite. It was Miliband who agreed to call in the police, after having accused Unite of “besmirching” the Labour Party and of engaging in “bad practice, malpractice, machine politics and the death throes of the old politics”.
All party ‘reforms’ proposed on the back of the manufactured scandal about Falkirk Labour Party should be abandoned. A campaign of lies and slanders can never provide a basis for a more “transparent” and “participatory” style of politics.
Having been well and truly caught out, Labour Party leaders and officials will be anxious to ‘draw a line’ under the affair – and press ahead with ensuring that their preferred candidate is imposed on Falkirk.
But they cannot be allowed to get away with doing so. The Falkirk saga has left them weak and on the back foot. It’s time to press home the counter-attack.