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The return of Falkirk – more skulduggery, same victim, same perpetrators

Ed Miliband & Len McCluskeyThe last few days has seen the sorry Falkirk affair return with a vengeance. Readers may remember that there were two people who had been seeking Labour’s parliamentary nomination for Falkirk who were accused of wrong doing in the recruitment of new members to that constituency party. One was left-wing Scottish Unite activist, Karie Murphy, former nurse and later office manager to Tom Watson MP. The other was Progress-supporter Greg Poynton, then a director of new media campaigning consultancy, Blue State Media, who happened to be married to Gemma Doyle MP, deputy to Labour’s then defence spokesperson and leading Blairite, Jim Murphy.

The first of these people always denied the allegations but, from long before the row first exploded publicly in May 2013, was subjected to many months of character assassination and innuendo, alongside Stevie Deans, the chair of Falkirk constituency party and Scottish Unite. She was briefed against by leading Blairite MPs including Jim Murphy, denounced (along with her trade union) by Ed Miliband, suspended from membership, reported to the police for “potential fraud” but eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. And there was collateral damage too — two leading members of Unite lost their jobs at the local INEOS plant, and Tom Watson left the Shadow Cabinet.

The second of these, following the revelation in July 2013 by Channel 4 News journalist Michael Crick that he had recruited and paid for the membership of likely supporters, initially refused to comment on the allegation. Though the first Labour investigation had confirmed this as Poynton himself subsequently accepted, he was not condemned, suspended, or further investigated, and has therefore never been cleared of any wrong-doing.

So what’s new in this story? Having been battered by such appalling treatment, many people would have given up on the Labour Party, but Karie is made of sterner stuff. When Linda Riordan last month announced her intention to stand down from Parliament, Karie decided to apply for selection. In the last month, as she is wont to do, she has worked hard in Halifax, building support, and with significant success, such that journalists regarded her as the favourite to win the selection.

And how has the story ended?

Gregor Poynton has done alright for himself – appointed by new leader Jim Murphy as Scottish Labour’s director of external engagement in spite of what the Scottish Herald describes as his “controversial past“. Karie Murphy has been prevented from standing yet again, this time in Halifax. Michael Crick, reports:

Ed Miliband and his office have been desperately trying to block Karie Murphy in recent weeks, and have urged several women to put themselves forward after it was  deemed that Halifax should be an all-women shortlist.

They went so far as to write to all women members in Yorkshire as late as 10pm on Saturday night with a deadline for response of 9am on Saturday morning. Karie Murphy has this evening commented with characteristic generosity:

It is a credit that the shortlist is made up of so many local women — this is a new and welcome precedent for the Labour Party, but it’s regrettable it wasn’t applied more rigorously in the past.”

Karie would have been an outstanding candidate and MP in in Halifax. For once, Louise Mensch got it right in yesterday’s Sun:

As far as Labour goes, Murphy is one of the good ones. I knew her in parliament when she worked for Tom Watson, my friend and political opponent on the Culture committee. You couldn’t miss Ms Murphy with her striking red hair as she turned up for work each day, sitting and taking notes, always there working herseklf into a frenzy. She had a better attendance record than half the MPs. The Labour seat that selects her will be sending a real terrier to Parliament. We need more women like her. If the reds want a purge of union puppets, they should start at the top with Ed Miliband, not at the bottom with real talent such as Karie. Call it Murphy’s law

The phrase “union puppet” aside — I know Karie well enough to know that she is the puppet of absolutely no-one — that is spot on.

Why has all this happened?  Because once again, the Blairites have been stirring up a frenzy in the Tory media about “union influence”, highlighting Unite in particular, and Halifax. This was precisely their motivation in Falkirk. On that occasion Ed Miliband fell for it and launched the attempt to weaken the party-union link which resulted in the Collins report. He pursued that even after Unite and Karie Murphy had been exonerated and he has fallen for it yet again.

Only this week, the Sunday Times revealed (£) that Tony Blair has raised £1m “to help Labour keep out unions” and “freeze out Unite” or “curb union influence” as the Mail put it, from the millionaire chairman of Hull City football club. Len McCluskey today responded:

Assem Allam seems to want to replace Unite, but support for Labour is about values far more than money. Will Allam pay the £1.5 million annual affiliation fee that underpins the day-to-day running of the party? Will he match the £3 million donated by Unite members to the Labour Party’s election campaign? Will he put in the hours to pound the streets, deliver the leaflets and man the polling booths as our members will? A Labour Party victory will not be won on the back of one-off donations from fair-weather supporters.

It comes as no surprise to me that Assem Allam is trying to use his money to weaken the historic link between the union movement and the Labour Party. As any fan of Hull City will tell you, Allam is no stranger to changing the very identity of a century old institution for the sake of furthering his own fortunes and personal vanity. The labour movement is built on its values, not money. If Allam truly wishes to support Labour, he should lead by example and adopt our values by paying his staff at Hull City a living wage.”

Ed Miliband has made a tragic error in choosing yet again to back the Blairite union baiters rather than the party-union link. The idea that trade unions have too much influence in the Labour Party is plainly absurd. Unfortunately, so too is the idea that the trade unions will come to the rescue of Ed Milband should he need their assistance if he does not become Prime Minister in the second week of May.

And he has yet again made a serious error in riding roughshod over the rights of party members who have in Halifax been denied the opportunity to back a candidate who has significant support in their selection process.

28 Comments

  1. The Battle of Falkirk

    Was it so wrong for those in Unite?
    To encourage their members to take up the fight,
    Take back for workers the party we made,
    The party that all our principles betrayed.

    Was it so wrong for those in Unite?
    To picket the houses of directors who lied,
    To make a stand for pensions and pay,
    Against the greedy who want to take them away.

    Was it so wrong for those in Unite?
    To make a bold stand for those in this plight,
    Challenge the figures of those in power,
    Who threatened that this was the refineries last hour.

    Was it so wrong for those in Unite?
    To try to hold on with all of their might,
    To the standards of living their parents had won,
    They who thought all the struggle was done.

    Was it so wrong for those in Unite?
    To question accounts and demand an insight,
    Accounts that remain protected, secret and hidden,
    Access for those who they effect is forbidden.

    So where do we go what can be done?
    Our government complicit in what they have won,
    Public funds to them are now paid,
    Whilst on capitalisms sacrificial table workers are laid.

  2. Rod says:

    “On that occasion Ed Miliband fell for it.”

    Fell for it?! Ed was the ring-leader.

    But I suppose those who are determined, no matter what, to vote Labour will burnish the myth of Ed as the hapless innocent who is continually duped by the evil, Progress-packed PLP.

    As for Karie, if she’s half as good as Louise Mensch reckons then Karie should take her political ambitions elsewhere – no need to waste herself on a Labour Party that’s gone rotten.

    1. Robert says:

      Ed is not right wing he is not left either, Poor old Ed is controlled a puppet put in place by guess who the Unions. The Unions thought they had him but in fact Blair and Progress had beaten them

  3. David Pavett says:

    That we might wish Ed Miliband to have acted otherwise than he has done does not make his actions a “tragic error”. Either he understands what he is doing in this matter or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t then he is a fool. If he does then this is just a further example of an anti-democratic and anti-left stance. That the plausible alternatives to him are worse does alter this basic truth. Miliband’s actions are not “mistakes. They are an expression of the political outlook and political policies which form the basis of Labour thinking under his leadership. I don’t see how it is appropriate to describe this as a “tragic error”.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      The tragedy, in my view is for the Left and the Labour party. Ed Miliband beat his brother, the Blairite candidate by a very small margin. If he is forced out of the leadership – which will undoubtedly be attempted within days of 7 May if he is not Prime Minister – there is no candidate who is a political improvement who is also capable of winning the leadership, and no guarantee that the best of the candidates who would be likely to contest it – probably Andy Burnham – would beat the Blairite-backed candidate. Ed’s actions in this matter – because they represent another slap in the face of both unions and constituency activists – make it much less likely that any attempt to force him out could be resisted. I could go on, but I do not believe speculation about post-election leadership elections is helpful during the campaign.

      1. David Pavett says:

        @Jon.
        I don’t have a problem with seeing the results of the policies discussed as tragic. My problem is with seeing them as a “tragic mistake”. The tragedy will be the result of the adoption of neo-liberal policies and the mindset that goes with them. This is not, however, a “mistake”. It is the ideology and the policies derived from them consciously chosen by Ed Miliband and those around him. It is not a “mistake” as if he/they had opted for a socialist alternative and had chosen the wrong means to implement it. He/they have opted for society based on corporate capitalism which he/they claim can be tamed to become “responsible”. It is not a mistake, it is a conscious and deliberate choice.

        I think you are probably right about post-May leadership issues but I was not trying to start a debate about that at this point.

      2. John.P reid says:

        Burham is a Blairite, Ummuna is clever enough to know that it’ll be better to not stand in 2015 and stand again, in2020 as if Burnham wins we’ll lose the 2020 election as well,

        Cruddas or Danzcuk, or john Mann should stand, or Rachel reeves

  4. John.P reid says:

    Gregor Pynton, has done alright for himself apoointed.. Jim Murphycampaogn team, so he’s doing a job, to get labour votes, sounds like he’s got his snout in the troff, for his own gain.NOT

  5. James Martin says:

    Absolutely right David, he is either a knowing knave or a naive fool to have done this.

    In part I still get the impression that he hasn’t really got much of a clue about the real world outside of his comfortable middle class upbringing and student politics debating society. Never had a proper job of course, but also he has never indicated that he remotely understands what unions are and why they exist. Not a clue about life in a call centre where the technology oppresses and bullies those you spend more than a couple of minutes in the toilet by flashing red lights to bullying managers. Not a clue about working on an unsafe building site without proper protective equipment and clothing. Not a clue about the desperate fear of redundancy that is part and parcel of any cuts (even the ‘sensible’ ones he and Balls prattle on about). So to him a ‘union’ must be like any other sort of ‘stake holder’ (a word itself designed to neuter and remove the power of working class self-organisation), or perhaps even a distraction that bothers the ‘leave it to us’ Fabian elite of top-down patronising tossers.

    And for all the talk of returning democracy to the Party after the disaster of the New Labour years, we see just what that means in practice with unaccountable London no marks deciding what is best for a CLP hundreds of miles away.

    The unforgivable result last time was the sacking of good union reps and Party activists (with no apology once the allegations were proved false), and the weakening of a union in a large workplace. This time it may be the loss of a winnable Labour seat in a couple of months time.

    1. Robert says:

      When your a puppet of either side the Unions who got him elected and expected pay back, and Progress who controlled him even before the election, Miliband is just a pawn in the new labour road to where ever they want to get to.

      1. John.P reid says:

        Mkluskey is threatening to withdrawl money, as he’s not got his way, yet Blair is giving a grand to every Target constituency, so Sainabury withdrawing money after Ed won, doesn’t seem so bad,

    2. Jon Lansman says:

      Whilst I certainly want far more local candidates and working class candidates selected by Labour, I won’t write off Ed Miliband purely because he comes from a reasonably comfortable background (and I wouldn’t exaggerate the riches of those on academic salaries either). Other leading Labour figures have come from comfortable middle class backgrounds – like Clem Atlee or Tony Benn. I think Ed’s problem isn’t that he’s either a knave or a fool but that he mistakes buying off Progress as ‘party unity’ and that he undervalues trade unionism probably because he has, as you say, too little experience of it.

      1. Robert says:

        I do not write him off because of his back ground and I would b never do that for anyone.

        But today labour made a statement through the old Progress Chair Reeves, Labour is the party of workers , which is what Miliband has stated, then she goes onto say Labour is not the party of welfare or benefits .

        So whom do the poor vote for or those like me living on benefits anyone see a party like the SNP local.

        Miliband is not brave he is weak, totally weak

  6. Duncan says:

    I hesitate to say this but, while disapproving of central control of selections (and there was no reason for this to be such a late selection so there could have been a normal process) it might well be that the long-list as published is a good one. The Yorkshire Labour movement is an impressive one in terms of home-grown talent, and Pennine towns have a tendency to dislike a perceived parachute. And Halifax has a strong tradition of excellent local women MPs. I see Susan Hinchliffe has the backing of Ann Cryer – which is encouraging. Others are names I’ve known a very long time, from a range of party perspectives. Had Karie Murphy been on the longlist, I don’t think she’d have been the most left-wing person on it, nor the most likely to be selected (if all other things were equal).

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      It’s true Duncan that there may be good candidates on the longlist, and I think Karie herself implied that in her welcome for local candidates. That’s no reason, however, to exclude other good canddiates with plenty of local support for political reasons which is what really happened. The new local criteria, whilst welcome, are a smokescreen.

  7. Barry Ewart says:

    A Labour Leader should be a facilitator, keeping power with the grassroots through Conference and allowing constituency parties to draw up their own shortlists and select their own Parliamentary Candidates.
    It should be up to them if they want to choose a local person or someone from outside.
    But the evidence seems to suggest a top down Leadership and control freakery from the top and the NEC.
    You would still need guidelines to ensure a gender balance of Labour MPs but what about a class balance?
    I believe we should have at least 2 working class candidates on every Parliamentary shortlist (based on occupation of parent(s) – social classes 3-6) but of course we would need these working class candidates to be democratic socialists.
    Then let the constituency pick the best democratic socialist candidate.
    We need a grassroots, bottom up, Labour with strong links with trade unions.
    We should also send a leaflet to every home in the country selling the benefits that trade unions have achieved and encouraging everyone to join a trade union.
    Yours in solidarity!

  8. the labour party under Ed Miliband is clearly a party controlled by anti union, anti ordinary people pro business and wealth political apparatchiks. What is suprising about this farrago is that so many people on the left still think that a party which is run by people who are essentially on the blue spectrum of politics – as the book Blue Labour makes clear – should still get support from democrats and progressives.

    The era of the NEw Labour project is coming to an end, along with all forms of small group politics in the Westminster bubble. Preparation for a post election, post austerity politics should start now,

    Trevor Fisher

    1. Robert says:

      It’s called the Progress party

    2. Duncan says:

      You’ll no doubt be back again in a few years Trevor

      1. Robert says:

        I doubt it…

    3. Barry Ewart says:

      I nearly gave up on Labour a few years ago and thought of joining Left Unity.
      They seemed a decent small socialist party and you probably wouldn’t disagree with much of their policy.
      Their challenge was to overcome sectarianism which to a great extent they seem to have done.
      But Labour is where most working people are and trade unions are (probably the most genuine voice of working people) so I am there with other left wing democratic socialists (I joined LRC) to try to build democratically a genuine democratic socialist Labour.
      Some on the Left seem to be top down (elite central committees, ready made programmes, all the answers).
      And some seem to believe in the banking concept of political education – all they need to do is to deposit their programme into the heads of working people and then we just need to follow their leadership – top down socialism FOR working people and not grassroots, bottom up, democratic socialism WITH working people.
      Tony Benn once said we needed a teacher but he was wrong – we need to be facilitators!
      I was lucky, I learn’t from reading Capital but was confident enough not to treat it as a bible but I was pointed to the writings of Paulo Freire.
      I was also greatly influenced by Ralph Milband’s ‘The State in a Capitalist Society’ (and I love John Lennon’s music) but overall I love Rosa Luxemburg’s point – the best thing that we can all bring to the table is critical thinking.
      I am not a politician, I am a democratic socialist.
      I say what I believe; the Left in Labour is a minority but we have ideas and imagination.
      We face a big challenge but should always try to be positive and offer hope.
      Yours in solidarity!

      1. John.P reid says:

        Yes labour is a democratic socialist party, unite members vote too be affiliated democratically with labour, and getting them to join labour in bulk, with the idea,it can increase their chances of getting their candidate,but they tried to oust progress magazine, U democratically,and…
        Progress despite not having a vote on things the way,some unions,or the co-op, Fabians do, can also use its money to help train,it’s prefered choices for things like standing for the NEC

  9. Robert says:

    We are hearing labour is saying she did not have the time so had to be ruled out.

  10. peter willsman says:

    We need to develop procedures for these cases, where the CLP has more control and the NEC less.We also need a fair and transparent system for choosing which CLPs will have AWSs.CLPD is working on these issues.To make progress we need the TUs not only to talk the right way, but also to vote the right way when the rule changes come forward from CLPs!
    For info.,Edmonton was also a shortlist of all local women,but in stark contrast Rotherham was a disgrace.The NEC only shortlisted two,neither from Yorkshire.Some 80 comrades walked out of the selection meeting in protest,leaving only about 25 to make the decision.

    1. John.P reid says:

      Peter, if Kate osamor becomes. aMP to you get to go on the NEC, the way Joanna Baxter did when Oona king went to the lords, and stepped down from the NEC in 2010′

      Also, I see Jack Monroe has left labour to join the Greens
      Recall this article from 5 months ago. http://www.leftfutures.org/2014/11/david-cameron-is-a-serial-exploiter-of-his-dead-son-for-political-purposes/

      1. Rod says:

        Jack Monroe has left the Labour Party because of Labour’s “tougher than the Tories”, UKIP-influenced approach to immigration.

        It must be said, it’s heartening to see a person learn from experience and move on.

        1. John.P reid says:

          Shame she didn’t lqve earlier, when she said the disgusting comment about Cameron trying to cash in on,nois disabled sons death, as it cost us lots of votes at the time,

          Hopefully, a few others will leave too

          1. Rod says:

            “Hopefully, a few others will leave too”

            Indeed.

            I left a couple of years ago, wishing I hadn’t rejoined when Miliband became leader.

            But better late than never. There’s no point in clinging to one’s mistakes – learn from them and move on.

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