Richard Willis's Blog

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Crisis in the Labour Party as Civil War Erupts

labourThe papers and news reports have been filled over the last few days with details of the civil war which seems to have broken out within the Labour movement. It has already led to allegations of the fixing of Labour Parliamentary candidate selections, a Shadow Cabinet resignation, a Police investigation, and suspensions of Labour party membership.

The core of the dispute relates to the influence of the Trades Unions within the Labour Party, and the influence of one union in particular, “Unite”. Unite is the Labour Party’s biggest single donor, providing over £3m a year to the central party and giving direct support to dozens of Labour MPs and candidates. However, the union leadership, having influenced the Labour leadership election to get Ed rather than David Miliband, has decided that it wants more control over who is selected to stand for Parliament at the next General Election.

The current dispute revolves around the selection for the constituency of Falkirk where the Labour MP Eric Joyce has resigned the Whip to become independent following several confrontations with other MPs and the police. Unite is accused of packing the selection process by signing up people as constituency Labour Party members who were asked if others could vote on their behalf the ‘right’ way in the choice of candidates. Labour has refused to publish the report of its internal investigation but has now belatedly handed the report to the police.

The whole saga is complicated by the fact that the candidate which Unite is seeking to have selected in Falkirk is the office manager of Labour’s General Election co-ordinator and Deputy Chairman Tom Watson MP. On Thursday Watson resigned from his post, plunging the Labour party into crisis and its General Election strategy into further confusion. Ed Miliband has sought to sound tough, condemning Unite’s tactics, but it has been known around Westminster and in the party that this has been the practice in a number of previous candidate selections. Indeed some in the Falkirk are reported to have raised concerns over Unite’s activities several moths ago.

Some close to Miliband have also hinted that the whole relationship of the party with the unions may be reviewed but this has been undermined by denials and revelations that Miliband sought to reassure Ken Livingstone that this was not the case. Senior Labour sources have accepted that Ed Miliband’s credibility is on the line and that he needs to show some leadership but Unite’s General Secretary Len McLusky has protested that Ed Miliband is being pushed around by the Conservatives and has demanded an independent inquiry into what he calls a “disgrace” and a “smear campaign” by the Labour party. He has stated that all “trust in Labour’s HQ has gone! Some have even suggested that Unite should withhold all or part of its contributions to Labour’s coffers. If this was to happen the party would be at risk of bankruptcy, so dependent is it on McLusky’s money! A shadow Labour Minister is reported as saying about Miliband that “He’s looking like the man who turned a blind eye to something bordering on

As the internal row continues to simmer Ed Miliband has failed to get a grip on his party and given further credence to the view that the trades unions have far too much influence on the Labour Party. 41 Parliamentary candidates have been identified as backed by Unite with a 42nd selected just today. Miliband is caught between a rock and a hard place. He cannot sever the link with the union because he is dependent on their cash but the impression that they not he really run the party is extremely damaging to Labour. It will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few weeks. Will there be arrests? Will there be resignations from the party and more from the front bench? Will selections other than just Falkirk be investigated? Will the internal report into the Falkirk ballot-rigging allegations be published?

Ed Miliband has been made to look weak and his party corrupt. It will not end well for the Labour Party!


July 6, 2013 - Posted by | National


  1. Dr Sarah Woolaston made a very valid point on Questiontime last week that when candidates are picked by either the Conservatives or Labour in the safe seats the (quite literally ) handful of people that do the selection are effectively picking the next MP !!
    A strange sort of democracy , but one that suits the 2 biggest parties !

    Comment by Howard Thomas | July 6, 2013 | Reply

    • Fortunately that is not true in many case in the Conservative Party. Some local associations have well over 1,000 members and others (like Reading East) used a form of Primary process in which registered supporters were also able to take part and vote for the candidate.

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 7, 2013 | Reply

  2. Richard,

    I am sure you are delighted at this news. ENJOY! I do not grudge you this moment, that would be most churlish.

    Now this is in the short term bad but for the long term good for the UK Working Class and the Trade Union Movement. Ed Miliband is totally useless, will not be PM and should be removed from the UK political scene. Now Labour under him simply cannot win an overall majority in 2015 against the nastiest and most vicious Tory Government since the Hungry 1930s under Stanley Baldwin, when they should be a constant 12% or even 15% ahead in the Opinion Polls and have done far better in May’s County Council Elections, they are. missing a wide open goal.

    Labour has to ditch Ed the Unready as Leader as your lot did to IDS when he was an equally inept Party and Opposition Leader, ” The Quiet Man Turning up the Volume”- still cringe making after all these years, and get someone with ability but I am stuck for a name to be honest as there are no Labour “Papabile”.. Alas for Labour they have NOT a man of the stature and ability of Michael Howard waiting in the wings to take charge at their time of need.

    What may now be required will be for the Unions to cut their losses, pull the plug on the Blairite Blue Labour Party, let it go bust and collapse, and then found a replacement REAL Labour Party faithful to the principles and tenets of Hardie, Lansbury, Attlee, Nye Bevan, Harold Wilson, but rejecting the Blairite Centrist philosophy and Ramsay MacDonald type “Me Too” attitudes to matters such as the Bedroom Tax etc, and return to supporting the rights of the Working Class, protecting the vulnerable in British Society and the NHS State owned and directed and free at point of need to all.

    So enjoy Labour’s problems while they last Richard. Their pain may be bad at the time but the suffering is worth it in the end to be rid of Miliband and his revisionist approach and Get Labour back to its Traditional Tenets and Values and become a true alternative to Cameron’s Austerity Toryism.

    Comment by Steve Foley | July 7, 2013 | Reply

  3. By this time next week this will be old news and is another example of a desperate Tory party clutching at straws.

    What will not be forgotten however is the latest YouGov poll which indicates that a huge 20% of Tory voters are thinking of switching their allegiance to UKIP. In addition only one in three Tory voters would never vote for UKIP meaning that 2 in 3 might.

    Even more worryingly for the Tories is that 53% of their dwindling band of Tory members either felt the leadership did not have much respect or none at all for them while 44% admitted they spend no time whatsoever on party activity in an average month. Perhaps the most telling finding from this poll is that only 19% of Tory voters expected them to gain an overall majority at the next election.

    Comment by Phil the Greek | July 8, 2013 | Reply

    • ‘Phil’ – I think that is wishful thinking on your part. This Unite story has legs and there is lots more still to surface. See:

      Labour’s relationship with the unions is its Achilles heel and is likely to keep bubbling to the surface over the next 2 years or so.

      As for “dwindling” Tory membership, you will no doubt, be disappointed to learn that we are attracting many new younger members. Reading East reconstituted its youth branch a while ago and Reading West now has enough members to start its own Conservative Future (CF) branch. Meanwhile Reading Uni CF has around 100 members and I am told is the biggest political youth branch at the Uni.

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 8, 2013 | Reply

  4. So with Labour on the back foot and Cameron (supposedly) having his best month since taking office and with the “Achilles heel” of the unions what do you think happens in the polls? It’s obvious. Labour extend their lead with YouGov to 11 points at 41% with the Tories floundering on 30%. If you cannot steal a march under the most favourable circumstances you are likely to get before 2015 isn’t it best to give up now.

    Comment by Phil the Greek | July 14, 2013 | Reply

    • ‘Phil’ – presumably that is why the Conservatives have drawn level with Labour in tonight’s ICM poll. If Labour cannot maintain a lead in midterm during austerity with the most respected opinion pollster’s findings you might as well give up now!

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 15, 2013 | Reply

  5. You know as well as I do it’s an outlier.

    Comment by Phil the Greek | July 15, 2013 | Reply

    • Lol the last refuge of someone who doesn’t like the results! We will have to see!

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 16, 2013 | Reply

  6. Definitely an outlier and the latest Ipsos-Mori poll has Labour 11% ahead. And then there’s this:

    Comment by Phil the Greek | July 17, 2013 | Reply

    • And the latest YouGov poll has Labour’s lead down to just 5% again!

      Comment by Richard Willis | July 19, 2013 | Reply

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