2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection
The 2013 Labour Party Falkirk candidate selection is an on-going political process and resultant row between the Labour Party and its major financial backer Unite the Union, over selection of a suitable candidate to replace independent Eric Joyce, formerly a member of the Labour Party, as the parliamentary representative for Falkirk as regards the 2015 UK General Election. The row has so far caused 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 had been 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 other alcohol-related incidents within his private life, Joyce was arrested at 22:50 on 22 February 2012 in the Palace of Westminster by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of committing assault. He was described as having gone "berserk", hitting "at least three MPs, including a Labour whip". He headbutted and punched the Conservative MP Stuart Andrew, after hitting Labour assistant whip Phil Wilson, while Wilson was attempting to restrain him. He also assaulted Basildon Conservative councillor Luke Mackenzie, and Thurrock Conservative councillor Ben Maney, both of whom were attempting to break up the incident. Two Conservative MPs, Alec Shelbrooke and Jackie Doyle-Price, were also caught up in the fracas whilst attempting to intervene and calm Joyce down. A door window was smashed as Joyce attempted to resist arrest before being removed by police and taken to Belgravia police station. The disturbance occurred at the Strangers' Bar (reserved for MPs and their guests).
Suspended the following day from the Labour party after his arrest, on 23 February he was charged with three counts of common assault and released on police bail. A fourth charge was added on 9 March. Fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £1,400 in compensation to his victims, he avoided a custodial sentence. He later stated that he intended to complete his current term as an MP. In a statement before the House of Commons on 12 March 2012, he apologised personally to his victims, stated that he had resigned from the Labour Party, and that he intended to complete his current term as an MP but not seek re-election.
In August 2012, Joyce was back in court after using scissors on 4 July 2012 to remove the electronic tag that was attached to his leg as part of his punishment. The tag had been attached as part of the community order. He was fined £600. A year later, on 14 March 2013, Joyce was again arrested following reports of an altercation in the sports and social bar of the House of Commons. In light of it being his second alcohol-related incident on House of Commons premises, the following day Joyce was given an indefinite ban by the Office of the Speaker from purchasing and being served alcoholic beverages from all Palace of Westminster premises, including its eight bars. Joyce was released under police bail from Belgravia police station the same day, when it was revealed that he was also facing a charge of actual bodily harm. Prosecutors ultimately took no action against him.
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.
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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