U.K. Labour leader Ed Miliband said he wanted to “mend” not “end” the party’s relationship with unions as he sought to repair the damage from allegations that its biggest donor tried to rig the selection of a candidate.
“The presence of ordinary working people -- from shopworkers to nurses, engineers to scientists, construction workers to classroom assistants -- in a political party should be its biggest asset,” he wrote in The Observer newspaper today. “To cut these individuals loose would make politics more out of touch, not less, more remote from working people.”
Labour, the main opposition party in the U.K., has asked the police to investigate allegations that the Unite union in Falkirk, Scotland, had been signing up people as Labour members without their knowledge in an attempt install its favored candidate in the vacant parliamentary constituency. Unite has donated 11.8 million pounds ($17.5 million) of the 60.2 million pounds Labour has received since the 2010 general election.
Miliband, who became Labour leader three years ago, has sought to contain the controversy’s impact on the party’s popularity. On July 5, Labour handed the findings of an internal inquiry to the police. A day earlier, Labour lawmaker Tom Watson quit his job running the party’s 2015 election campaign. Prime Minister David Cameron says the dispute shows unions enjoy excessive influence under Miliband.
Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey denies any criminal wrongdoing by the union. Writing in the Sunday Mirror newspaper, he urged Miliband to “step back from the brink of a ruinous division.”
Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, said McClusky is “absolutely wrong” to say there is no foundation to the allegations.
“The duty of the leader is upholding the rules,” Harman told BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” show today. “Len McClusky should be supporting Ed, not simply saying, ‘these allegations, I’m going to sweep them aside.’”
In his Observer article, Miliband said events in Falkirk had “betrayed the values of our party” and pledged to take action to prevent a repeat. Reform of parliamentary selection rules to ensure they are “fair, transparent and open” will be outlined soon, he said.