LABOUR’S leadership has been criticised by the local party in Falkirk over its handling of the row over the selection of a candidate in the town.
Brian Capaloff, a member of the Falkirk party’s executive, said that Labour’s hierarchy has not been very “impressive” at dealing with the fall-out, which stemmed from accusations that the Unite union signed up members to the local party, many without their approval, to try and influence the selection.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has refused to reopen an inquiry into claims that the Unite union packed the Falkirk constituency party with its supporters in an attempt to have its favoured candidate selected. However, Mr Capaloff said Labour’s decision to withhold publication of a report on the inquiry meant the local constituency party was unable to gain the closure it needed to move on.
At a meeting of party members on Sunday, Gray Allan, an official with the Unison union, was elected as chair as part of a shake-up of Labour in Falkirk West. He replaces Stephen Deans, the Unite official who was at the centre of the Grangemouth industrial dispute.
Mr Deans was implicated in the row over the selection of a Labour candidate to replace Eric Joyce in Falkirk – where Mr Deans was party chairman – and subsequent alleged attempts to thwart a party investigation.
Labour’s general secretaries for Scotland and the UK have now agreed to speak to members over the allegations that led to Mr Deans and Karie Murphy, Unite’s choice to replace Mr Joyce, being suspended by Labour as it investigated the claims.
However, Mr Capaloff revealed that Friday was the first time the constituency had been pro-actively contacted by the hierarchy, after members received a letter from Ian Price, the Scottish general secretary.
Mr Capaloff said: “Finally, they have recognised that there has been some damage done to this constituency and there is a need for a ‘package’, as they put it, of support for the local party in order to start to heal the wounds and in order to stop us being a wounded animal when it comes to campaigning in the 2015 general election.”
“We’ve been wanting to get an official of the Labour Party to come to a meeting of the constituency and answer questions of members but they’ve declined to do that,” said Mr Capaloff.
“We, as a party, have been contacting them, we have been asking questions of them over a considerable period, but the answers that we have been getting back have been absolute zero.”
He added: “I don’t think it’s been particularly impressive, personally. I think members have been somewhat excluded from the various processes, the Scottish Labour Party and the UK Labour Party has been detached from the impact upon individual members.”
Asked if publishing Labour’s internal report into the debacle would help the local party draw a line, he replied: “That is absolutely the case.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman defended the leadership’s handling of the row and confirmed the party would now recruit a full-time organiser for Falkirk.