Falkirk row: Unite leader hits back
The leader of Labour's biggest trade union donor said he had "no trust" in the party's handling of the Falkirk selection row as Ed Miliband's election co-ordinator resigned over the issue and two party members were suspended.
In an incendiary letter to Labour's general secretary, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said a party inquiry into claims the union tried to stitch up candidate selection was a "disgrace" designed to "smear" the union, and demanded an independent inquiry.
He accused shadow cabinet members of being "in the lead" of attacks on Unite - which he insisted had "nothing whatsoever to do" with alleged efforts to cram the constituency with new members.
He wrote: "The mishandling of this investigation has been a disgrace. I, however, am obliged to uphold the integrity of Unite, and I can no longer do so on the basis of going along with the activities of a Labour Party administration in which I can place no trust. I will therefore be publicly proposing that an independent inquiry be held into all circumstances relating to Falkirk CLP and the conduct of all parties involved."
Mr McCluskey's intervention further stirred the seething dispute over allegations that Unite crammed the constituency party with 100 or more members whose subscriptions were paid by the union, some of them without their knowledge.
In an afternoon of fast-moving developments, Tom Watson stepped down as Labour's deputy chairman and left the shadow cabinet, saying that he was stepping aside to safeguard "the unity of the party".
In his resignation letter, Mr Watson revealed that he offered to resign on Tuesday, but was asked by Mr Miliband - to whom he said he remained loyal and considered could be an "outstanding" prime minister - to "reconsider". And he risked embarrassing the Labour leader further by calling for an internal report into the controversy to be published - something Mr Miliband has refused to do.
Mr Miliband told Unite that he would not tolerate abuses of membership and selection procedures in "my party". He said: "I am incredibly angry about what's happened in Falkirk because I feel that the good name of Labour Party members, trade union members and the Labour Party have been besmirched by the behaviour of a few individuals.
"That's why we suspended the local party, that's why we have now suspended two individuals and that's why we are also clear that we are closing down the scheme that allowed this abuse to happen.
"I want to be very clear about this: I am not going to have abuse of membership procedures, of parliamentary selections, in my party. That is very clear and I want to be clear about that for the leadership of Unite the Union in particular."