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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Unions poised to dominate Labour leadership race

After Jim Murphy's parting shot yesterday at Unite boss, Len McCluskey, the Sunday Times reports on claims that unions are trying to “hijack” the leadership election, bulldoze the Blairites out of the way and install their preferred candidate, Andy Burnham.

They say that Labour MPs have followed the example of the former Scottish Labouir leader and have broken cover to denounce the leadership rules as worthy of “a banana republic”. They have accused union allies in parliament of “bullying” MPs into backing Burnham rather than Blairite contender Liz Kendall:

Unite has launched a phone-bank drive to convince its members to become “affiliate members” of Labour so they can vote in the election.
John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, complained that the rules were “open to abuse” since union members did not have to personally pay £3 to become affiliates of the Labour party like those who signed up as registered supporters. Union bosses do not have to pass on the phone numbers of those they sign up but can use them to lobby for their chosen candidates.
“It is not a level playing field,” Mann said. “It is giving preferential access. This is in many ways worse than what they did with the Miliband election — when what they did was banana republic stuff.”
Barry Sheerman, the MP for Huddersfield, warned that new MPs were being intimidated. Last week he tweeted that “Unite heavies are leaning on MPs” to block Kendall. This weekend he said: “One new MP said, ‘What am I supposed to do when I am told that if I cross certain people it is the end of my career?’
“I did not join the Labour party for this sort of behaviour. This has got to be seen as an absolutely clean and open election. It has to be seen as an election that nobody can hijack.We don’t want to go through this whole process and then feel it was not a legitimate election.”
Alan Milburn, a former cabinet minister, said: “The Labour party ought to mobilise to ensure that the only new electors in this leadership election are not just those mobilised by the trade unions.”
Assem Allam, a big donor, said: “We don’t need people . . . supported by the unions. If you continue going to the country with your party as a maxi-trade union, forget it — you lose again.” 

Labour are starting to resemble an episode from Game of Thrones. It is all far more civilised in the Liberal Democrats!
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