Henry Hill: Falkirk Labour in 'special measures' after allegations of trade union infiltration
Labour’s Falkirk branch in “special measures” due to fear of trades union infiltration
The national Labour Party has taken control of candidate selection for the constituency following concerns that trade unionists might have been “packing membership lists” in order to secure their preferred candidate.
Sitting MP Eric Joyce was suspended from the party after admitting to assaulting four people in the Commons. The party plan to select his replacement from an all-woman shortlist, but has decided to exclude any member who joined after Joyce announced that he was stepping down, in order to “preserve the integrity of the Labour Party” following the presumably dire results of an internal enquiry.
When I was still a student at Manchester, I read a fascinating book – whose name sadly escapes me now – about the struggling between moderates and Militant infiltrators in a constituency Labour party (I think it was Lincoln) during the 1970s. One of the book’s biggest themes was an overwhelming sense of frustration that the party proved ill-prepared to defend itself against well-organised entryism.
Dan Hodges has reported on moves by some of Labour’s larger union backers to get more directly involved in candidate selection and policy formation, hot on the heels of clinching the leadership for ‘Red Ed’, and comparisons to the Seventies and Eighties have been drawn in all sorts of circles. Yet in Falkirk at least the central party machine has moved decisively against the mischief makers, a state of affairs which opens up a real gulf between today’s far-left manoeuvring and the struggle against Militant.
Unite’s response, apart from getting the name of the constituency wrong, blames this action on the shadowy influence of “Blairite pressure”, which apparently aims to totally exclude trade union influence from the party. Given the current state of the Blairites, that seems hard to believe.
Sinn Fein spinners shoot themselves in the foot
The running down of two nationalist members of the Northern Ireland Assembly by an armoured PSNI land rover sounds like a compelling story, especially since one of them even walked away with injuries. Such would have been the hopes of Sinn Fein spinners after Gerry Kelly took an impromptu ride on the front grill of a police vehicle during a public disturbance.
However, the nationalists overreached themselves by releasing a video of the incident which does their case no favours, as this article in the Belfast Telegraph spells it out. Quite aside from the fact that it shows Kelly trying to order the police around (which he has no authority to do), the video shows the eminent reasonableness of the police response from start to finish.
Far from cruelly running Kelly down, the PSNI truck nosed into him – almost certainly expecting him to get out of the way – and when he elected to cling to the front carried him forward for all of six seconds before stopping and, upon request, giving him the driver’s details. Callous police brutality this was not.
SNP plan pre-poll closure of the Scottish Parliament
The SNP have drawn up plans to suspend the Scottish parliament for a month in the run up to the independence referendum next year.
According to the Scottish government, it is intended to help manage the restrictions placed on parliament and other public bodies in the “short campaign” before polling by moving the recess into that space. SNP ministers will also enter a form of purdah, where they can’t make public announcements in a governmental capacity which might influence the result one way or the other.
On the other hand, the opposition claim that Salmond is bringing the business of devolved government to a halt in order to allow the SNP to focus all their resources on the referendum campaign, rather than legislating and being scrutinised by the opposition. They also maintain that it means there will be nobody to hold the SNP government to account during the sensitive period before the vote (when it will still be governing, parliament or not).
I’m quite sure that Scotland will manage to survive, somehow, if temporarily robbed of its devolved chamber. Yet given their previous form it is hard to give too much credit to Nationalist indignation at the suggestion that they might be using their government position to try to skew the referendum playing field.
Petition against naming children’s park after IRA member
Henry Reilly, the UKIP representative on Newry and Mourne District Council, has publicly backed a petition against the naming of a children’s playground after a convicted member of the IRA. The park is currently named after Raymond McCreesh, who was convicted in 1977 for multiple offences including conspiracy to murder, and died in the 1981 hunger strikes.
The petition, which can be found here, states that signatories are in favour of so naming public spaces in Northern Ireland that “every person in Northern Ireland feels welcome”. The council say that they are cooperating with an enquiry by the Equality Commission into the name.
The Aberdeen Donside by-election result is in…
…and according to Labour blogger Ian Smart, everybody lost.
The SNP held onto their wafer-thin majority in the Scottish parliament, albeit with a much reduced lead over Labour. Mark McDonald’s majority is just over 2,000, down from the almost 7,200 vote lead secured by the SNP at the 2011 election. Meanwhile Labour apparently selected badly and failed to attract enough switches from other unionist parties to put them over the top.
Alas, the Liberal Democrats overtook the Tories for third place, but in happier news at least our vote didn’t seem to go anywhere else – there was only a 0.44 per cent swing away from the Tories, despite a potential twofold squeeze on our vote: first UKIP sallying into the seat (falling just short of retaining their deposit, much to Alex Salmond’s delight); second Labour apparently making a hard unionist pitch to Tory voters as the viable anti-nationalist option. So either our voters simply weren’t much moved by these appeals, or there were some fascinating switches happening.
The Scottish Democratic Alliance brought up the rear with 35 votes, suggesting the comments section of Tory Hoose was out in force in Aberdeen.