by Atul Hatwal
Yesterday Labour members in Falkirk gathered for their annual general meeting. They elected a new party chairman, Gray Allan, and once again the party attempted to move on from the disastrous parliamentary selection process. The new chair’s first statement clearly frames the date for the new selection vote as the point where the party will try to claim closure,
“On 8 December, in Falkirk, we will select a candidate to fight this seat for the next general election. The priority for us is to work to regain the trust of the people of Falkirk so that we can be confident of a victory in this constituency.”
But no matter how much the party wants the Falkirk farrago to go away, there is a problem.
The constituency remains in special measures, Labour HQ is running the selection process and no CLP member who joined later than March 12th 2012 can participate in the vote. All of this despite the official party line being that no group or individual has been found to have broken any rules.
This contradiction is the reason the questions keep coming. The missing link is the unpublished report into the selection process conducted by Labour officials.
The report was the basis for the action taken in Falkrik and sets out the detail of what went wrong. The allegations contained in it ignited civil war within the Labour movement between the party leadership and Unite and have driven media coverage so catastrophic that Gray Allan was moved to talk about regaining “the trust of the people of Falkirk” if Labour is to win again in what should be a rock solid Labour seat.
Until the report is published, it will be impossible for Labour to successfully move on.
Publication of the report is certainly what the members of Falkirk CLP want. Two weeks ago, Gray Allan said,
“The party should let us see the report, so that we can have a healing process and put this to bed.”
Last Friday, the Guardian reported Brian Capaloff, a member of the local executive as saying,
“The only way they are going to make these allegations of irregularities go away is for this report to be seen.”
And yesterday at the Falkirk AGM, members were reportedly asking again about publication.
Unfortunately, local members are going to be waiting an awfully long time.
The party point blank refuses to publish and so far there has been no leak of the report.
In a political world where the name of Dr.David Kelly was ushered into the public domain at the height of the media mole-hunt for Andrew Giligan’s source, and the findings of the Hutton report into Dr.Kelly’s death were leaked to the Sun before its official publication, this level of secrecy is extraordinary.
Now, the real reason that Labour’s report on Falkirk has been subject to greater security than matters of war and peace, has become clearer.
Last week, Uncut published a piece examining the contradictions in Labour’s official version of events. Leaked e-mails and internal reports from Unite, published by the Sunday Times, make a compelling case that the leader’s office agreed Unite’s strategy in Falkirk and Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, agreed to relax recruitment requirements for the “union-join” scheme.
A few days after we published the post, a source from Labour HQ contacted Uncut with word of the rumour doing the rounds at Brewer’s Green on the reason that the report will never be published. They said,
“What people don’t get is that Iain [McNicol] is our chief executive. The guys who did the inquiry report to him. But given what’s in the report, he obviously didn’t tell them about any deal with Unite.
The Ineos leaks tell us all we need to know about what was going on behind the scenes. If the report is published, then the general secretary and Ed’s office will have some impossible questions to answer”
The respective roles of the general secretary and leader’s office in agreeing the report are critical.
If Iain McNicol did agree to change the recruitment rules for the “union join” scheme and then didn’t tell his own staff, who were writing the report, his position would be untenable.
If Ed Miliband’s office did know and agree Unite’s strategy in Falkirk, but then signed-off a report lambasting the strategy as “manipulating party processes”, fundamental questions would be asked about the leader’s honesty.
It would escalate the crisis in Falkirk to a new level. The problems would no longer be confined to a far flung Scottish constituency. The new focus would be Labour HQ at Brewer’s Green, and the most senior officials in the party: the general secretary and the leader’s office.
And that’s why the party’s report on Falkirk will never be published.
Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut