Miliband turns over a new leaf: ‘No more machine politics’

Ed Miliband has tried to draw a line under the Falkirk row, with an attack on union leader Len McCluskey and a promise to end "machine politics".

The comment comes amid reports the party has referred its review of the candidate selection process in Falkirk to the police.

"The Labour party I lead will select its candidates in a fair and transparent way," Miliband said.

"We will act without fear or favour. Instead of defending what happened in Falkirk, Len McCluskey should be facing up to his responsibilities.

"He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there, he should be facing up to it."

He added: "Let nobody be in any doubt. There is only going to be one outcome to this: the Labour party will act in a way that upholds the integrity of our party, the integrity of our party members and the integrity of ordinary trade union members.

"I will not allow the good name of the Labour party to be undermined by the behaviour of a few individuals."


The comments mark a low point for relations between Labour and Unite the union, its most significant financial backer.

In an angry letter to Labour's general secretary, McCluskey cast doubts on Labour's internal inquiry into the affair and said he had no faith in the leadership.

"The report has been used to smear Unite and its members," he wrote.

"Even if the allegations of people being signed up to the party without their knowledge were true, this had nothing whatsoever to do with my union.

"The report has been used to smear Unite and its members," he added.

"It is noteworthy that members of the shadow Cabinet have been in the lead in initiating this attack.

"The mishandling of this investigation has been a disgrace. I, however, am obliged to uphold the integrity of Unite, and I can no longer do so on the basis of going along with the activities of a Labour party administration in which I can place no trust."

Yesterday saw Labour election co-ordinator Tom Watson step down from his position over the row.

Watson's office manager, Karie Murphy, was the union's preferred candidate in Falkirk, a seat left open after Labour MP Eric Joyce was embroiled in a brawl in a Commons bar.

Watson's letter of resignation raised several problems for the Labour leader, not least of all his specification that "I offered my resignation on Tuesday and you asked me to reconsider". The line makes it much harder for Miliband to claim he acted decisively over the affair.
"I'm a cool, calm, level-headed person. I thought it was right to consider," Miliband explained.

"I phoned [Watson] Thursday lunch time and told him it was right he went."

Shortly after the Watson letter was received, Labour suspended Murphy and Falkirk party chairman Stephen Deans and took direct control of the Falkirk selection process.

The scheme under which Unite could sign up members for Labour and pay fees on their behalf has now been ended. About 400 union members had joined the party under the scheme.

Today, Watson suggested the unions' influence on Labour was grossly exaggerated.

"Looking at how the unions organise within the Labour party, I generally think they're pretty hopeless. I don't think there’s many trade union activists who get much of a say these days," he told BBC Radio West Midlands.

"And so, I don’t think it's a problem, I do think there's a lot of politics behind it. Obviously, David Cameron would like people to believe that the Labour party is in the hands of these left-wing factions – it's just not true."