Labour MP says Scottish leadership contest is being “rigged”
The contest to decide the next leader of the Labour Party in Scotland is being “rigged”, according to a senior MP.
Former Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray, who until June’s election was the party’s only representative at Westminster north of the border, said the election was being swung in favour of left-wing candidate Richard Leonard as a result of voting rules which allow members of Unite to cast a ballot.
In order to vote under Labour rules, members can either join as a full member; sign up as a registered supporter; or become a supporter through an affiliated trade union.
Around 2,700 members of Unite, the party’s biggest donor, have signed up through the third method, with Mr Murray having been angered regarding a text message Unite had sent its members that led to the potential sign-ups.
PoliticsHome revealed two weeks ago that the union had been forced to re-contact all those members it had texted after being rapped by Labour bosses.
In a letter seen by The Herald, Mr Murray, who is backing rival centrist candidate Anas Sarwar to replace Kezia Dugdale, wrote to the party’s headquarters, saying the process appeared “clumsy and, at worst, being rigged for a particular process.”
“There is no doubt whatsoever that the way in which Unite has signed up affiliate members to vote in the leadership election is against the rules of the Scottish Labour Party and the process,” he wrote.
He added: “The text clearly failed to ask the recipients if they supported the aims and values of the Labour Party, nor did it ask them to consent for their data to be shared with the party.
“In order for this process to be fair and robust, the party must reconsider whether any sign-ups from this process are valid.”
The Edinburgh South MP also questioned the “impartiality” of interim leader Alex Rowley, and called on him to stand aside after he was recorded endorsing Mr Leonard for the top job at Labour’s UK conference in Brighton.
A Unite spokesman said: "Ian Murray is wrong. Unite has adhered to the SLP's rules to the letter, and indeed the general secretary and the party's legal and governance unit have all confirmed that our affiliated members are valid.
"We urge Mr Murray to take (Scottish Labour general secretary) Brian Roy's advice on this and in doing so withdraw his wrongful accusations about Unite."
A spokesperson for Scottish Labour said: "Any affiliated or registered supporter would be expected to support the aims and values of the Labour Party. These sign ups are eligible and within the rules of the leadership contest."