Leaders: Miliband must resume Unite inquiry

Ed Miliband needs to resume his inquiry into Unite. Picture: PA
Ed Miliband needs to resume his inquiry into Unite. Picture: PA
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‘MOVE along, nothing to see here” would appear to summarise the reaction of the Unite union leader Len McCluskey to the publication of further details of the union’s role in the Falkirk Labour Party selection affair.

He denies claims that Unite officials acted to thwart a Labour Party inquiry. There was, he maintains, nothing new in the latest crop of disclosures over ballot-rigging in candidate election. In a subsequent TV interview yesterday, he asserted that the union was the victim of “disgraceful and despicable attacks” and that details – including excerpts from an internal Labour Party report referring to “deliberate attempts to frustrate” interviews with key witnesses - had been leaked by Conservative Central Office. He went on to assert that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband should pay no attention to the calls for a renewed inquiry.

Mr McCluskey must be the only person in Britain who believes there is no case for the union to answer, given the publication of e-mails suggesting Unite engaged in forgery and coercion. The union stands accused of coercing its members to join the Falkirk Labour Party or signing them up without their knowledge, to ensure the union’s favoured candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected as a general election candidate.

Clearly something is amiss. Yesterday, it emerged that Stephen Deans, the Unite union official at the centre of the Grangemouth dispute, is to step down as chairman of the Falkirk West Labour Party. If it is all a Tory plot and there is no need to respond, why should Mr Deans feel it appropriate to relinquish his position?

This affair merits further examination by the Labour Party if only for this one reason. It has now emerged that the union – and Mr Deans – played a critical role in persuading those Labour Party members who had lodged complaints to subsequently withdraw them. Because of this withdrawal, the party suspended its inquiry. Now the union’s role in that withdrawal has come to light the party needs to get to the bottom of the affair.

And it needs to do so because of wide and serious concern that the union has behaved improperly in seeking to secure the selection of its favoured candidate. The implication that Unite is able to get away with a breach of party rules on candidate selection is extremely damaging. 
For Mr McCluskey to brush aside the growing weight of evidence on the union’s irregular activities in Falkirk West as “not new” or a “Tory plot” is simply not good enough. Not only does it put the party and its leader in a highly unflattering light, but it leaves a damaging impression that Labour is not the democratic organisation it purports to be and that its biggest paymaster can interfere almost at will.

Both Mr McCluskey and the Labour leader will vehemently deny such an interpretation. It is therefore in both their interests that a stalled and incomplete inquiry is resumed to establish a full, truthful and transparent account.

Dram near perfect

American tourists’ purchases and Japanese corporate gift-giving will never be the same. News that Glenmorangie’s Ealanta whisky has finally emerged, after almost two decades of development at its Tain distillery, to be hailed as the best dram in the world will send an electric shock through the luxury end of the market.

Its limited edition, matured in virgin American white oak casks from Missouri, has been hailed as “borderline perfection” by one of the world’s leading whisky experts. He has scored it 97.5 out of a possible 100 points.

Such an endorsement is now set to traumatise the corporate gift-giving world, where great store is set by the quality – and relative scarcity – of the whisky chosen. In a rarified world of fine distinctions, anything less for the chief executives of global corporations may now be regarded as bordering on an affront. And wealthy American and Asian visitors, keen to secure the purchase of the very best whisky Scotland can offer, will be on a frenetic hunt to secure their own bottle of Ealanta.

Jim Murray, author of the annual Whisky Bible and an internationally renowned expert on whisky, has also renewed his attack on the use of caramel as a colouring agent in production. This adds yet another hurdle for the perfect gift of a bottle of Scotch.

Whatever next? Might we see the dramatic unveiling by a rival distillery just a few weeks before Christmas of an even rarer and exotic whisky, matured in casks of rare saturated oak from shipwrecks off the Scottish coast? “Dear Santa” letters from thirsty fathers will already have to be updated this year. Another exotic entrant at this stage of the gift game may just be too much.