Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

MP wants fresh Falkirk votes probe

A Conservative MP has called on police to reopen investigations into vote-rigging allegations surrounding the selection of a Labour candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Falkirk, in the light of new information contained in emails from officials of the Unite union.

A dossier of about 1,000 emails has been handed to police in Scotland, who were initially called in by Labour when allegations of irregularities emerged in July but determined then that there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing to launch an investigation.

Tory MP Henry Smith wrote to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Sir Stephen House, asking him to order officers to examine whether the new messages contain evidence of false representation or abuse of position in relation to efforts to recruit members to the Falkirk constituency Labour Party ahead of the selection ballot.

His letter came as Labour leader Ed Miliband was urged to consider reopening the party's own internal inquiry into the affair.

The Labour investigation was closed last month after key witnesses withdrew evidence suggesting that they had been recruited to join Labour as part of a drive by Unite to cram the constituency party with supporters who would back its favoured candidate.

But the Sunday Times reported that it had seen emails suggesting that the retraction letter was written by Unite officials and approved by one of the figures at the heart of the dispute, Falkirk constituency party chairman Stevie Deans, who is also the union's convenor at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant.

The emails - sent from a company address - were reportedly obtained by lawyers working for Grangemouth's owners Ineos during the recent industrial dispute, as the firm sought to prove that Mr Deans was spending work time on political activities.

They reportedly included a draft of the retraction letter which was sent to Mr Deans for him to get it signed by Michael and Lorraine Kane, the witnesses who initially complained to the party against him, and Karie Murphy, who was Unite's choice to become Labour prospective parliamentary candidate in Falkirk after MP Eric Joyce announced he would not stand again following his arrest in a House of Commons bar brawl.

Mr Deans and Ms Murphy were suspended by Labour when the inquiry was launched but charges against them were dropped, and they were reinstated as members after the Kanes withdrew their complaint.

Labour's former general secretary Peter Watt told the Sunday Times: "Understandably, the initial inquiry was pulled because of lack of evidence.

"If new information has surfaced that puts a question mark over that lack of evidence, the party should consider reopening its inquiry."

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Labour must reopen the Falkirk inquiry immediately.

"These emails confirm that Unite planned to infiltrate the Falkirk Labour Party to ensure their candidate was selected and, when the inquiry was opened, went so far as to write the statements from key witnesses withdrawing their evidence.

"Ed Miliband failed to stand up to the unions in Falkirk and backed down in the face of pressure from (Unite general secretary) Len McCluskey.

"If he is too weak to stand up to his union bosses and tackle what he himself called 'bad practices', how can he stand up for hard-working people? "

A Police Scotland spokeswoman told the Press Association: "Information was handed in to Falkirk police on Friday and this information will be looked at by police."

A Unite spokesman said: "Unite was the subject of entirely unjustified attacks in relation to the Labour parliamentary selection in Falkirk.

"Both the Labour Party and Police Scotland investigated the issue and found that neither the law nor the party's rules were broken by the union.

"The email exchanges, apparently leaked by an employer for its own purposes, do nothing to change that.

"Unite's own quite proper investigations into what had occurred in Falkirk, which we were enjoined to undertake, were all conducted through the medium of external solicitors. The union had no direct contact with anyone involved in the Labour Party investigation.

"It is normal for people subject to investigations which at one time involved the police to avail themselves of legal assistance in preparing their responses.

"It is also normal for Mr Deans to have dealt with the Kanes, who are members of his family, and further normal for Unite to provide assistance to its members who had done nothing more dangerous than try to involve themselves in democratic public life.

"This continuing media witch-hunt demonstrates how threatening some elements in society continue to find such involvement by working people."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?


From Belfast Telegraph