LABOUR leader Ed Miliband yesterday insisted there was no need for a new investigation into the Falkirk selection controversy, despite calls to do so from within his own party.
Labour sources said last night that the party’s Scottish MPs were now totally divided over how best to proceed, with many demanding that a full party probe is carried out.
Johann Lamont, the party’s Scottish leader, on Monday called for Labour to look again at the behaviour of the Unite union in the seat and former Chancellor Alistair Darling said there now needed to be a “thorough investigation” into the affair.
But Mr Miliband, who is due to visit Scotland tomorrow for a party fundraiser in Glasgow, said there was no need to open a new investigation.
The split in Labour follows claims that Unite signed up people without their consent in order to ensure its favoured candidate was selected to stand for the party at the next general election.
Yesterday, one Labour MP said: “It doesn’t appear to be going away and we just have to have a new inquiry or reopen the old one. It’s a bit Monty
Python now, because we almost need an inquiry into the previous inquiry. This needs to be dealt with.”
The calls come after Labour dropped an investigation into Unite in September after a key witness, Lorraine Kane, withdrew a complaint. However, earlier this week, Mrs Kane was quoted as saying her accusation still stood.
After a speech on the cost of living yesterday, Mr Milband was asked repeatedly whether he would, as a result, kickstart the inquiry. He was also challenged over whether he was “scared” of Unite. He said Ms Lamont was working with Labour general secretary Iain McNicol on the issue. “We take action on the evidence and that is the right thing to do,” he said.
He also said a second police investigation was under way. The party had checked with Mrs Kane who, Mr Miliband said, stood by her sworn statement from September retracting her original complaint.
He added that Labour had debarred the Unite-backed candidate from standing, had put the constituency party in special measures and had stopped members recently recruited by the unions from voting.
“I have embarked on the biggest reforms to the Labour Party in a decade,” he said.
The party is due to hold a selection meeting in early December to decide the candidate to replace Eric Joyce, who is to stand down at the next election.
However, fresh damaging revelations over the first attempt to find a replacement have continued to emerge over recent days. At the weekend, one Sunday newspaper said it had seen
e-mails suggesting the retraction letter of witnesses was written by Unite officials and approved by one of the figures at the heart of the dispute, Falkirk constituency party chairman Stephen Deans, who was also the union’s convener at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant until he resigned last week.
Speaking to a London-based newspaper earlier this week Mrs Kane said: “I did not change the testimony. I did not change anything. I did not withdraw anything. I want all the e-mails to see what’s what. This has been going on for months.”
Ms Lamont said on Monday that there was a case for another inquiry. However, Scottish party officials say that the police inquiries should be allowed first to run their course.
Last night, the SNP claimed the affair had damaged the Scottish party leader. Michael Matheson, MSP for Falkirk West, said: “If Falkirk has proven anything it is that Johann Lamont has no authority over the Labour Party in Scotland and no credibility in Scottish or UK politics.
“Ms Lamont has put Ed Miliband’s wishes first and foremost and her claim that she was to be the first leader of the whole Labour Party in Scotland has been shown up as all spin no substance. Falkirk and Scotland deserve better,” he said.
Osborne chided for attacking off his brief
Chancellor George Osborne, below, was accused of undermining parliamentary process and the traditions of the Commons by Speaker John Bercow yesterday, for raising questions over Labour’s selection in Falkirk while taking questions on petrol prices.
The Speaker cut off Mr Osborne as he made his remarks, calling on Labour leader Ed Miliband to reopen his investigation into the Falkirk controversy.
The Chancellor used the pretext of a question from Conservative MP Robert Halfon (Harlow) about the impact of industrial action at Grangemouth refinery to launch his attack.
But Mr Bercow said: “It’s got nothing to do with the responsibilities of the Chancellor.
“In the name of respect for parliamentary process and the traditions of this House, I would ask ministers not to behave in that way. We deserve better than that.”
Mr Osborne had said: “The greatest threat we have seen to fuel supplies recently has been the threatened industrial action by the Unite union, led by the chair of the Falkirk Labour Party.
“We now have the former Labour chancellor, former Labour foreign secretary, saying Labour should open their inquiry and publish what they find, and we have the Labour front bench saying Labour doesn’t publish internal documents.”