2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection
In 2013, Falkirk MP Eric Joyce resigned from the Labour Party and announced he would not seek re-election. The process of nominating a replacement candidate for the 2015 UK General Election led to a row between the party and its major financial backer Unite the Union, causing the suspension of two local party members, the resignation of Tom Watson MP as Labour's 2015 election strategist, and the forwarding of an internal report into the situation to Police Scotland.
Eric Stuart Joyce was selected as the Labour Party candidate and subsequently voted in as Member of Parliament for Falkirk at the 2005 UK General Election. After a series of alcohol-related incidents, including a drink-driving conviction and two fights in a House of Commons bar, Joyce resigned from the Labour Party, saying that he intended to complete his current term as an MP but not seek re-election.
The selection process for a new Labour prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Falkirk began in late 2012/early 2013. Until Joyce resigned his membership of the Labour Party in February 2012, the membership of Falkirk West Constituency Labour Party (CLP), which makes-up 70% of the total electoral constituency, stood at fewer than 100 members.
Soon after Joyce's resignation, Stephen Deans - a local shop steward who had risen to become chairman for Unite in Scotland - became chair of Falkirk West CLP. In line with then Unite policy and at-the-time-allowed Labour Party rules, Deans began recruiting Unite members - mainly from the local Ineos Grangemouth Refinery, where Unite had a pensions dispute in 2008  - into Falkirk West CLP, and paying their membership fees. By January 2013 membership of Falkirk West CLP stood at over 200 members, who were all then technically able to vote in the PPC selection process. Although now not a member of the Labour Party, Joyce, whose own actions had been at the root of the need to select a new parliamentary candidate, blogged about allegations arising from unnamed persons, supposedly, he claimed, to 'flood' the CLP with Unite members. Joyce was subsequently threatened with legal action via a solicitor's letter from Unite. Joyce later commented after the NEC report was handed to the police that:
|“||The amateur, hubristic and irresponsible actions of a small number of Unite officials at the top of the organisation will require some rules to be changed to prevent another Falkirk.||”|
The constituency fulfilled all the criteria adopted by the Labour Party for an all-women's shortlist, with the CLP Executive Committee agreeing, by consensus, to consult on this question, but two of the prospective candidates - Linda Gow, a former leader of Falkirk council; and Gregor Poynton, UK political director at communications firm Blue State - openly wrote to all constituency members asking for an open contest.
In February 2013, the selection process for the PPC was deferred to the Labour Party NEC. In March, the NEC proposed that the process be scrutinised by the Labour organisation sub-committee, and that an internal NEC report on allegations be completed, covering the perceived pushing of Karie Murphy as the PPC (former Chair of the Scottish Labour Party and Unite's preferred candidate), and the mass recruitment of Unite members to the constituency with their fees being paid en bloc by the union.
As a result of the NEC investigation, Murphy stood aside from the selection process. Stephen Deans, who still held the chair positions for both Unite Scotland and the Falkirk West CLP, said the suspension of the PPC selection process was an attack on the union by a "Blairite rump", and that "the decision taken is purely an attack on the work Unite has been doing in the constituency to recruit its members into the Labour Party." Both Murphy and Deans were later suspended by the Labour Party in light of submission the NEC internal report in June 2013.
In May 2013 whilst speaking at the annual Progress conference, former MP and business secretary Lord Mandelson claimed that a cabal at the top of the NEC were trying to exert influence, and warned Labour Party leader Ed Miliband that he "was storing up danger for himself and for a future Labour government over parliamentary selections".
On 25 June 2013, in light of allegations claimed to be contained within the completed NEC internal report, Labour Party Central Office in London implemented "special measures" under the Labour Party constitution, and took direct control of candidate selection in Falkirk. A spokesperson commented:
|“||After an internal inquiry into the Falkirk constituency we have found there is sufficient evidence to raise concern about the legitimacy of members qualifying to participate in the selection of a Westminster candidate. As a result, NEC officers today decided a series of measures are needed to uphold the integrity of the Labour party.||”|
The NEC later concluded that anyone who had joined the Labour Party in Falkirk after 12 March 2012, when Eric Joyce announced he was stepping down, would not be allowed to take part in the selection process. The NEC then suspended provisional candidate Karie Murphy and Falkirk party chairman Stephen Deans, for which Unite the Union then immediately criticised the Labour Party's decision.
|“||These decisions have been taken on the basis of an 'investigation' into the CLP (Constituency Labour Party), the report of which your union has not been allowed to see. As a result, not only are the rights of Falkirk CLP members being ignored, Unite is being subjected to a behind-the-scenes smear campaign. We will be challenging this procedure and this campaign through all proper channels within the party, publicly and by legal action if necessary.||”|
On 2 July former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett MP speaking on BBC Two's Daily Politics said the party had "taken the right step by having an investigation" and said he hoped the NEC would "deal with it decisively". Blunkett went on to say he thought the party should publish the internal report, adding that Labour "should be as transparent as possible". However, a Labour Party spokesperson later said that it was standard practice not to publish the NEC's internal reports.
On 4 July, Tom Watson MP resigned as Labour's 2015 general election campaign co-ordinator, though he remained in place as Deputy Chair of the Labour Party. Watson confirmed that provisional Falkirk candidate Karie Murphy had previously been his office manager until her selection.
After the NEC had been briefed by the party solicitor on 4 July, on 5 July Ed Miliband announced that the party was to refer the NEC internal report into allegations of irregularities in the selection of a PPC in Falkirk to Police Scotland, after confirming that the NEC internal inquiry had shown irregularities the Falkirk Labour Party candidate selection. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23200895
The Conservative MP Henry Smith wrote to the Chief Constable of Scotland, Sir Stephen House, asking for an investigation and suggesting Unite might have committed fraud. On 25 July Police Scotland concluded that there were insufficient grounds to support an investigation. A spokesman for Police Scotland told the BBC: "Following a comprehensive review of all material submitted, Police Scotland has concluded there are insufficient grounds to support a criminal investigation at this time. However, should further information come to light this will be looked into."  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-23447279
Both Murphy and Deans were suspended by the Labour Party in light of submission of the NEC internal report in June 2013. Murphy had previously withdrawn her candidature for the PPC position and was later reinstated as a party member after having her name cleared of any wrong doing.
The Labour Party immediately withdrew the right for affiliated unions to pay the Labour Party membership fees for their members to join the local CLP.
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