Crisis in the Labour Party as Civil War Erupts
The 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!