Monday, 19 December 2016

Union Puppet Master

Gerard Coyne has thrown his hat in the ring to become the next general secretary of Unite after the present incumbent, Len McCluskey (66), decided to stand down early in a cunning ruse to earn himself a third term. 

Now I don't know Gerard Coyne, but I would say that Len McCluskey has to be the bookies favourite because 'name recognition' counts for a a great deal in union elections which  normally involve a very low turnout of members.

Back in 2010, for example, Len McCluskey was returned as general secretary by just 6.8% of Unite's total membership.

Coyne's pitch to Unite members simple and direct - he wants Unite to concentrate on the members interests instead of spending so much time cuddling up to Jeremy Corbyn and telling the Labour Party how to run its affairs. 

In a recent interview tin The Guardian Coyne said of Unite members: 

"Often, they are people who don’t feel 'political', even if they are affected by political events. I believe they want a general secretary who spends less time trying to run the Labour party and more time looking after their interests." 

I agree with that, I have to say.

Because there's no doubt in my mind that Len McCluskey has been pulling the strings in recent years, operating as Labour's 'puppet master', first of all with Ed Miliband and now with the even bigger disaster of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

So Gerard Coyne would be a breath of fresh air if you ask me - read the full interview via the link below to The Guardian.

Why I am standing to be leader of Unite: our members need someone to fight on their behalf

With falling real wages, zero-hours contracts up by 20% and attacks on workers’ rights, we need a strong union more than ever


Gerard Coyne: I joined my first union aged 17. Photograph: handout

By Gerard Coyne - The Guardian

I know the value of a strong union. My father was an activist in the Fire Brigades Union and my mother was a school caretaker and a GMB member. I joined my first union at 17 when I was a shop worker at Sainsbury’s and I’ve worked at Unite for 28 years. I fight for a better deal for members every day. 

Now more than ever, people need someone in their corner to stand up for them at work. The erosion of employment rights under this government, the proliferation of zero-hours contracts and the increase in temporary employment have left workers open to exploitation.

We are living in an age of chronic insecurity. But just as the economy and the needs of our members are changing rapidly, unions must change too. We need to be more flexible, more responsive and more transparent in the work we do.

Many members don’t know the name of their general secretary, but they know exactly how much of their wages they part with in union subs and they want to see real value for money for that cash.

All too often members feel the leadership of their union is too remote and out of touch and they get angry and disillusioned when they read about allegations of inappropriate uses of union money. That has to change.

Pensioner Hatches Cunning Plan (17/12/16)

Image result for len mccluskey _ images

I heard Len McCluskey being interviewed on Sky News yesterday and laughed out loud when he used the opportunity to 'warn' Labour MPs not to interfere in Unite's internal democracy.

The backdrop being that Len (66) has triggered an unnecessary election by resigning as the Unite boss before his existing term of office is up in 2018 by which time he would be 68, and a bit 'long in the tooth' for a union leader, some would say.

But Len's clever wheeze is that he's not really resigning at all - he's standing again as general secretary even though Len is already drawing his (final salary) Unite pension, having passed the normal retirement of 65 which must mean, I presume, that Len is drawing his state pension too.

As regular readers know, as a general rule, I'm against people accessing their retirement pensions and then continuing to work because they're really having their cake and eating it at the same time.

In any event, Len's complaint about political interference made me laugh because he has previously launched a full frontal attack on the present leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale, and also called upon its previous leader Jim Murphy to resign.

Even though both possessed 'democratic mandates' far more impressive than Mr McCluskey's who was elected by just 6.8% of the members who voted in Unite's leadership election back in 2010. 


Psst.....pass it on! (06/07/16)

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Jeremy Corbyn has a whopper of a mandate, don't you know, which he remarks upon at every opportunity as if this makes him immune to political attack.

Well so what, I say.

Because Tony Blair had a mandate before he was persuaded to stand down as Labour leader in 2007.

As did Jim Murphy, Labour's last but one leader in Scotland, yet that didn't stop Unite boss Len McCluskey from demanding that Murphy should stand down after the party lost all but one of their MPs in the 2015 general election.  

Murphy went on to win a vote of confidence at the Labour Party's Scottish Executive yet he still decided it was best for him to go.  

So all this mandate stuff is irrelevant if you ask me, because the real issue is that Jeremy Corbyn has shown himself to be completely useless so much so that he has lost the confidence of 172 of his fellow Labour MPs.     


'Kinder, Gentler Politics' (02/05/16)

I was going to have a blogging-free day today, given the bank holiday, but having read thoughts of Unite boss Len McCluskey on Labour MPs undermining Jeremy Corbyn, I felt compelled to say something.

The first thing is that demanding Labour MPs to show more loyalty to their leader is a bit like calling for Count Dracula be put in charge of the local neighbourhood blood bank.

Because, as everyone knows, Jezza was a serial rebel throughout his 32 years as a backbench MP who voted against his own party line over 500 times, as well as being a persistent thorn in the side of every Labour leader in recent memory including: Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

So, Len is re-writing history in similar fashion to Ken Livingstone who caused the whole row in the first place by claiming 'Hitler was a Zionist' and that a person can only be anti-semitic if they hate all Jews across the world, not just those living in Israel.

Now Len's comments are extensively reported in The Guardian (see link below), yet strangely the Unite boss has nothing to say about Comrade Livingstone's behaviour or the extremely stupid and hateful things the former London mayor said. 

Instead McCluskey lashes out at named Labour MPs and even has the brass neck to attack Liz Kendall's 4.5% share of the vote in Labour's leadership election, when Len managed to attract only 6.8% of union members who voted in Unite's leadership election.

Still it's nice to see the Corbyn style of 'kinder, gentler politics' at work.


Corbyn ally Len McCluskey attacks ‘treacherous’ Labour MPs

Union leader accuses Labour figures of setting ‘false traps’ for leader, as polls suggest party is on course for worst local election results in 35 years
Jeremy Corbyn pictured with Len McCluskey during his leadership campaign. Among those accused by McCluskey are Liz Kendall, Michael Dugher, Ian Austin and Wes Streeting. Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty Images

By Rajeev Syal and Heather Stewart

A key ally of Jeremy Corbyn has accused MPs of employing treacherous tactics designed to undermine Labour’s leader, as an analysis of the latest polls by a leading academic suggests the party is on course for its worst local election results for 35 years.

Len McCluskey, the head of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, claimed former shadow ministers Liz Kendall and Michael Dugher, Gordon Brown’s former aide Ian Austin and newly elected MP Wes Streeting have made interventions meant to damage Corbyn.

McCluskey’s intervention comes as a new projection conducted for the Guardian shows that Labour is on course to lose 175 council seats in Thursday’s elections.

Psst - pass it on! (16/09/11)

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Psst, pass it on!

Len McCluskey of Unite has a smaller 'mandate' than Dave Prentis of Unison see post dated 14 September 2011 - People in Glass Houses

Dave has a big whopper of a mandate compared to Len anyway and depending on how you count the votes.

But Dave's 11.2% puts Len's 6.8% completely in the shade and here's a earlier post from November 2010 which explains why.

Now I don't think that size really matters unless people go around making complete dicks of themselves by saying that they've got a bigger mandate than anyone else.

Because normally that's not true and men tend to be a poor judge of size, or so my women friends tell me anyway.

"Election Mandates (24 November 2010)"

Len McCluskey election as the new leader of Unite has prompted lots of Guardian readers to comment on the newspaper's web site.

Most people registering a view are rightly unimpressed at the poor turnout.

Less than 16% of the union's membership participated in the ballot which does raise serious questions about trade union democracy.

If 84% of the electorate cannot be bothered to vote something is clearly wrong and union leaders should do more than just shrug their shoulders and move on.

Some commentators also attack Len McCluskey, on a personal level, which is clearly rather unfair.

Len has still been elected after all he just needs to avoid getting too carried away.

Because any over the top attack on the government and its mandate to govern will sound completely ridiculous.

From a union leader elected with the backing of only 6.8% of Unite's 1.5 million members.

"Wee Lassie" Jibe (06/12/16)

Misogyny is alive and well in the senior ranks of the Scottish Labour Party, if the following piece in The Sunday Times is anything to go by.

A senior (and anonymous) Labour figure told the ST's John Boothman that: 

"There is deep gloom about the numbers. Everybody knows who Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson are and what they stand for. Insofar as they know Kezia, she is regarded as ‘a wee lassie’ and not up to the job. There are also areas of the country where she has no recognition at all."

“Until just after the Holyrood elections people had been prepared to give Kezia the benefit of the doubt as she had been leader for only a short time. It wasn’t fair to place the long-term ills of the party at her door — and anyway there was no alternative. That’s changed. Since May a number of people have emerged who have the talent to do the job.”

Now these ugly comments comes hot on the heels of full frontal political attack by Unite boss Len McCluskey, so it doesn't take a genius to work out who is behind the latest attempts to undermine Labour's Scottish leader. 

Kezia Dugdale was only elected in 2015 and received an even bigger mandate than Jeremy Corbyn with 72.1% of the vote.

But Kez is a woman of course, so the size of her mandate doesn't appear to mean anything to Kamikaze Len and his union bully boys.


Arrogant Tosser (28/11/16)

Len McCluskey is an arrogant tosser, if you ask me.

Because Len's always banging on about other people's leadership abilities while conveniently ignoring the fact that he led Unite members at the giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth into a crazy, politically motivated strike that almost cost them their jobs and left the workforce on poorer terms and conditions than those they enjoyed before the dispute began.

The Sunday Herald reports that Len is none too impressed with Kezia Dugdale, as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, as if the Unite boss is speaking from a position of strength.   

But as we all know people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Unite boss McCluskey savages Dugdale over leadership of Scottish Labour

By Andrew Whitaker - The Sunday Herald

THE leader of the UK’s largest trade union has launched an extraordinary attack on Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who he accused of doing a “disservice” to herself and the party with her leadership.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, in a dramatic intervention, also claimed the SNP could help keep a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in power after the next General Election, if there was a “progressive alliance” to oust the Tories.

He hailed a call by Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley for the party to ditch its “narrow” Unionist ideology and return to its Socialist roots – as reported in the Sunday Herald earlier this month – as a “clarion call” and the “correct thing to do,” adding: “Alex speaks a lot of sense”.

'Kamikaze' McCluskey (10/07/16)

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The boss of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, issued the following statement after talks collapsed over Jeremy Corbyn's continued leadership of the Labour Party:

“I am dismayed at the statement issued by Tom Watson announcing his withdrawal from talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Labour party.
“Extraordinarily, I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for a meeting of trade union leaders, Tom Watson and representatives of the PLP and the party leader for tomorrow, arrangements requested by Tom Watson and his colleagues, specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience. 
“In that context, when the possibility of a workable plan had never seemed closer, Tom Watson’s actions today can only look like an act of sabotage fraught with peril for the future of the Labour party. 
“I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement; I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the leader was not on the agenda. Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.
“I will continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs.”
Now if McCluskey had already made plain that Corbyn's position as leader was 'non-negotiable', then the talks were doomed from the outset, the vast majority of Labour MPs (from all  wings of the party) having concluded that Jeremy is simply not up to the job.
So it's worth remembering that Len McCluskey's style of leadership almost led to the closure of the giant Ineos plant at Grangemouth after Unite foolishly called a damaging strike over a local union steward who was called to account for carrying out work for the Labour Party during his employer's time. 

Resign! (26/09/15)

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The Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy won a vote of confidence (17-14) at the Scottish party's executive committee the other day, but decided to stand down nonetheless because of the wrecking tactics of his most vocal critics, including Len McCluskey the boss of the Unite trade union.

Unite has wasted £14 million of its members money in donations to the Labour Party since Ed Miliband became leader in 2010 and last year the union called a disastrous strike at the giant Ineos plant in Grangemouth which almost cost thousands of Unite members their jobs 

So why doesn't Len McCluskey follow his own 'lead' and resign as the Unite general secretary because by any standards he's done a lousy job after accepting that the vast majority of Unite members in Scotland supported the SNP in the general election, having deserted the Labour Party in droves over recent years.

Jim Murphy gave Len McCluskey both barrels in announcing his decision to resign and has pledged to table a report of proposed reforms to the Scottish Labour executive next month.

Here's what he had to say:

“It is clear that a small minority who didn’t accept my election as leader of the Scottish Labour Party just five months ago won’t accept the vote of the executive today and that will continue to divide the party.

Today I received more support in the executive vote than I did from members of the executive when I stood for election five months ago.

When I table that report at next month’s meeting of the Scottish Labour Party executive, I will also table my resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

It will be for the party executive to decide whether it accepts the reforms proposed, but a party in such urgent need of reform blocks those changes at its peril.” 

The Labour Party’s problem is not the link with trade unions, or even the relationship with Unite members - far from it.

It is the destructive behaviour of one high profile trade unionist.

One of the things about stepping down is that you can say things in public that so many people in the Labour Party only say in private.

So whether it is in Scotland or in the contest to come in the UK, we cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”

Debacle of a Dispute (24/10/14)

BBC Scotland's business editor, Douglas Fraser, does a good job of summarising the lessons of the disastrous dispute at Grangemouth which came within a whisker of shutting down the giant Ineos plant. 

If you ask me, the union reps involved owe the workforce a huge apology for the way they fought the dispute because the bottom line is they were playing politics, party politics at that, with people's jobs and livelihoods.   

Lessons from the Battle of Grangemouth

The Grangemouth dispute moved quickly over the past two weeks

Well, it's been a white-knuckle ride for Grangemouth and anyone who cares about the Scottish economy.

Only one of the surprising parts of this story is how fast it moved. Disputes like this usually take many weeks to unfold. But having come to the boil only two weeks ago, this one had dramatic tension and pace and was over before the weekend credits rolled.

Who won? Well, of course, Grangemouth did, and its workers and the wider Scottish economy. Politicians showed they can put differences aside to act as peacemakers.
Jim Ratcliffe founded Ineos 15 years ago

Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos emerged from relative obscurity to become poster boys for global capital. The firm secured a bundle of sweeteners from governments, BP (easing the terms of its supply contract) and, of course, from workers.

And who lost? Workers made sacrifices on pay and more so on pensions, but the humbling was for their union, Unite.

Red top notoriety

The employers had asked for a no-strike deal for two months. What they got was three years, along with everything they sought on pay and pensions.

The union lost all that, when it hadn't even fought over it. Instead, it chose to make a stand on a disciplinary matter, letting it become entangled with much wider demands from employers, then rushing calamitously into provoking the shut-down with a strike date.

The disciplinary issue, affecting union convener Stephen Deans, still isn't resolved, though it was due to be completed on Friday.

But it's worth noting the Ineos 'survival plan' was firmed up to ensure that the Grangemouth complex will have no further full-time union conveners.

Despite his red-top notoriety, Jim Ratcliffe claims not to be anti-union. He told the BBC he sees a role for them in representing workers, and in working with management on investment options and maintenance programmes, while sharing the common aim of the company's success.

He claims to get on fine with unions elsewhere. Indeed, he's got a similar investment project under way in Norway, where little moves in the oil and gas sector without union consultation.

Carrots without sticks

For other unions, and on other sites, co-operation has become more of the norm, for instance finding common cause on training and safety. Workers and bosses have worked together to steer a path through the downturn, where sacrifices have been made to secure jobs, retain skills and minimise compulsory redundancies.

It will be interesting to see if that unravels when the fruits of recovery are there to be shared out, or if lessons have been learned that can be carried over from the co-operative downturn years.

It might be more likely to do so if these relationships existed within one country. But the Ineos case is a reminder of how a modern corporation can work; behind veils of secrecy about its affairs and finances, without accountability, and with global investment portfolios allowing it to play off one plant against another.

As Unite has learned the hard way, there's little a trade union can do about that. And as governments have found, they can offer carrots to attract international investors, but the modern economy offers them few sticks. Carrots were duly deployed in this case.

Near death experience

Perhaps the main lesson to learn from this is the need to think and plan ahead. Several commentators have reflected on this.

For unions, there's a need to see the context in which their sector works, and to see ahead to the direction their employers are heading. Change is a constant, so it's doubtful that digging in to defend the past is much of a long-term strategy.

For government too, the near-death experience of Grangemouth petro-chemical plant brings up questions of what it can do to constrain or harness the power corporations have over strategic assets.

It also raises the question of how governments can plan ahead as industries rise and fall. That helps inform the skills and infrastructure that government puts in place, and where it puts seed and development funding where markets won't.

For 49 hours between Wednesday and Friday, the threat to Grangemouth prompted Scotland to face up to a future without the business of producing and processing hydrocarbons.

This has taught us a lot about the refining and chemicals industry, just one facet being the threat across Europe from efficient competition in other parts of the world.

The Scottish chemicals consortium responded to the Grangemouth turnaround with a welcome, but also a warning - that the competitive advantage it gets from re-orienting itself to the processing of shale gas from the US also protects it from the looming 'bloodbath' across the European sector.

Even if Grangemouth has now secured its future for 25 years, it may already be time to ask; what comes next?

Business Scotland this weekend considers the lessons of the dispute at Grangemouth. BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday at 10:00. It will also be a feature of Sunday Politics from 11:45 to 13:00.

Article written by Douglas Fraser
Business and economy editor, Scotland

Unite Debacle (23 April 2014)

Unite's handling of the Grangemouth dispute last year was widely seen as inept, even within the trade union movement, but for reasons best known to itself Unite seems determined to draw attention to the debacle all over again.

Now to recap the dispute started with the claim that the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans, was being victimised by his employer, Ineos, and the union called a strike in support of their local representative.

But as the affair dragged on and threatened the closure of the plant, Ineos claimed that Mr Deans had been abusing his time off arrangements, by devoting much of his time to Labour Party business, instead of representing the direct interests of his own members.
And when push came to shove Mr Deans resigned from his job rather than face the serious charges of which he had been accused.

So why Unite would want to rake over the coals of this disastrous dispute is beyond me, although Paul Hutcheon is on to a good story with the following piece in The Sunday Herald. 

Unite-Ineos relations plummet as union considers Labour candidate proposals

THE Unite trade union is considering plans to withhold support from Labour candidates unless they back a campaign to seize the assets of the company that owns the Grangemouth oil refinery.

In a sign of worsening of relations with plant owner Ineos, Unite will debate whether to link backing for Labour at Westminster and Holyrood with support for nationalising the company's operations without compensation.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said it was clear the union had a "stranglehold" on the party.

Unite's shambolic attempt at influencing Labour's Westminster selection contest in Falkirk, in which the union signed up over 100 new members in a bid to help their favoured candidate, had huge political ramifications.

The sign-up, which was linked to the Ineos plant at Grangemouth, was criticised by Labour leader Ed Miliband and led to the party rethinking its links with all its trades union affiliates. It also spiralled into a major industrial dispute.

Ineos accused Stevie Deans, at that point the plant's shop steward and Unite Scotland's chair, of using company time and resources to work on Labour Party business.

That row led to Unite backing strike action and was followed by Ineos threatening to close Grangemouth. The employer also insisted on swingeing changes to workers' terms and conditions. High-level political interventions led to a last-minute agreement between Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe and Unite, but the dispute left the union feeling wounded and Deans out of a job.

It also cost the Scottish economy an estimated £65 million.

The Sunday Herald can reveal Unite will reopen the Ineos issue at its UK policy conference in June. A copy of the preliminary agenda contains a motion signed by two Scottish branches.

It condemns the "threat by Ineos's Ratcliffe to shut down operations in Grangemouth" and noted that it was "unacceptable" for "one individual to be able to wield such power".

The motion also commits Unite to "campaign for the nationalisation without compensation and under workers' control of all Ineos assets in the UK".

It called for this demand to be a "major focus" of the union's campaigning in the run-up to the next Westminster and Holyrood elections, including "withholding support from any candidate who does not support that demand".

Unite is the biggest union donor to Labour, but the party has not come close to backing calls to seize any of Ineos's assets.

A Labour source said: "You can understand why Unite have concerns about the ownership of Ineos, but they clearly have not learned any lessons from Falkirk if they think the solution is to hold a gun to the head of Labour candidates. It is crazy."

If passed, the motion could result in only a handful of left-wing Labour candidates receiving funds from Unite and starve Miliband of resources. It would also hamper Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont's bid to become the next First Minister in 2016.

The row between Ineos and Unite was one of the most bitter industrial disputes in years. The company was accused of treating the plant's workers in a brutal fashion, while the union was believed to have over-played its hand by backing strike action.

Another motion to the conference, from branches in the northwest of England, calls for Unite to cut the money it gives to Labour.

Murdo Fraser said: "It seems that no matter what Ed Miliband and the Labour Party say, the unions still have a stranglehold on the party.

"With their massive funding of the party they are always going to have a significant influence, including the selection of candidates.

"Despite the Grangemouth dispute costing the Scottish economy £65m, the unions do not appear to have learned any lessons."

A Unite spokeswoman said: "It is in the preliminary agenda. It will have to go through due process before being debated and could well change."

She added: "It will be for conference to decide."

An SNP spokesperson said: "It is of course a matter for trades unions which candidates they wish to support and for what reasons, but this resolution obliges Johann Lamont to set out exactly what Labour policy is."

An Ineos spokesman declined to comment, as did a Scottish Labour spokesman.

Weird Gift

The Labour Party report into claims of vote-rigging in Falkirk has been leaked to the Guardian and can be read online at the paper's web site:

But here's what the BBC has to say on the subject and now that the report is finally out in the open, people can make up their own minds about what was going on.

For me it's not exactly the crime of the century and certainly not a matter for the police and the criminal law as I said recently on the blog site - see post below 'Right From Wrong' dated 26 January 2014.

What the report does confirm is that there were numerous examples of wrongdoing and bad behaviour by various individuals in an attempt to bend, break and otherwise manipulate the selection process.

One of the weirdest revelations is that certain individuals became members of the Labour Party without their knowledge - and that this was within the rules because their membership was bought as a 'gift'.

Have you ever heard of anything so daft?      

Labour report: No doubt on Falkirk rigging claims

The revelations come on the day Labour's governing body votes on changes aimed at reducing unions' power over the party

There is "no doubt" the Unite union recruited members to Labour in Falkirk in an effort to "manipulate" the party's selection of a parliamentary candidate, a leaked report says.

The publication of the previously withheld document comes as Labour's ruling body meets to discuss changing the party's relationship with unions.

Ed Miliband wants to change party leadership elections to a one member, one vote system.

Unite called the report a "stitch-up".

Last year the union - the UK's biggest - was accused of trying to rig the selection of the party's parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, to replace the outgoing MP Eric Joyce.


The Guardian newspaper has published the full report of Labour's internal inquiry into the allegations, which up until now had remained secret, with the party saying this was to protect a claimant's anonymity.

The 20-page report says "there can no doubt that members were recruited to manipulate party processes" during the selection of a candidate for the next general election.

It finds some union members were signed up without their knowledge and there were some signs membership forms appeared to have been forged.

The report also says there is "evidence that signatures were forged on either application forms or direct debit mandates or other documents".

The investigation was completed last June.

Unite has consistently denied breaking any rules and sources say the full report was full of inaccuracies which the union had no opportunity to rebut.

A Labour spokesman said the party had moved on since the row.

Mr Miliband is also proposing changes aimed at altering the way the leadership is decided.

Labour's governing National Executive Committee meets on Tuesday to discuss his plans for a one member, one vote system.

Trade unionists would no longer be able to vote as a result of their automatic union affiliation, but would have to agree to pay a £3 affiliation fee to Labour to take part.

Labour will hold a one-off conference next month to approve the changes.

At the moment, affiliated unions control a third of the votes in Labour leadership elections as part of an electoral college system, last used in 2010 when Mr Miliband was elected.

The proposed changes would give ordinary Labour supporters - as well as party members - more say over who leads them with no individual having more than one vote in a future contest.

Mr Miliband has described his proposals for altering the century-old link between Labour and the unions as "a huge change".

But union leaders have warned of a sharp fall in affiliation fees, with GMB boss Paul Kenny saying the shake-up is not a "done deal".

Speaking to Labour MPs and peers on Monday, Mr Miliband said MPs would need the support of 15% of their colleagues, not 20% as reported in recent days, to put themselves forward in a future leadership election.

He said this threshold would "strike the right balance between protecting the role of MPs and ensuring a diverse range of candidates going forward".

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said: "As this report shows, Len McCluskey's Unite union was trying to rig Labour's candidate selection in Falkirk.

"Yet Ed Miliband has been too weak to investigate how Unite applied their 'political strategy' in 40 other contests and he even had the publication of this report forced on him.

"Instead, all he has done is give the union barons even more power to buy Labour's policies and pick Labour's leader. Nothing has changed."

Chris Mason
Political correspondent, BBC News

This is a political case study of the law of unintended consequences.

It began with a punch-up in a Commons bar involving the Falkirk MP Eric Joyce, who later stood down as a candidate for the next election.

And it sparked a chain of events that led to a deep and very public search of the Labour movement's soul.

This 21-page report - marked "strictly private and confidential" - offers an insight into the complex, often baffling series of links between Labour and affiliated unions, and the rules that have governed those links.

Its publication is an unwelcome reminder for the party of the mess in Falkirk: the claim, the counterclaim, the frustrated investigation, the lack of clear answers.

It's a gift for Labour's political opponents.

Right from Wrong (26 January 2014)

A number of readers drew my attention to the story below from the BBC web site in which the Unite trade union claims to have been vindicated over the 'vote rigging' scandal in Falkirk - that blew up into a much wider industrial conflict involving the giant Ineos plant and the local Unite convener, Stevie Deans. 

Now I don't know of anyone who ever accused the Unite convener of criminality because he seems like a decent enough chap to me, but there seems little doubt that Stevie Deans was guilty of wrongdoing by abusing his time-off arrangements with his employer (Ineos) - a civil not a criminal matter, of course.

In effect Ineos claimed that Stevie Deans was working on Labour Party business when he was being paid by the company to represent the interests of the workforce - and Ineos management instigated an investigation to get to the bottom of things which was duly followed by a disciplinary hearing. 

Nothing to get too excited about there, you might think, but the union's reaction was to call a strike which was a completely crazy and irresponsible move especially when the agreed procedures provided Stevie Deans with every opportunity to defend himself and explain his behaviour.

Instead the whole business escalated out of control and in the end Stevie Deans resigned from his job rather than face the charge that when he was supposed to be doing what was best for workers at Ineos - he was devoting much of his time to party politics and the internal affairs of the Labour Party.

So the real issue was never about criminality which is a complete red herring.

As the old Labour Party slogan use to say, the real issue was always about knowing right from wrong - resisting the temptation to play party politics, and refusing to take risks with people's jobs and livelihoods. 

Falkirk row: Police say 'no evidence of criminality' in Unite emails

The controversy centres on claims the Unite union tried to fix the selection of a parliamentary candidate

Police have found "no evidence of any criminality" in emails sent by a former Grangemouth union convener.

Stevie Deans, who was a full time Unite official at the petrochemicals complex, had been accused of being involved in vote-rigging in Falkirk.

He was later cleared by an internal investigation by the Labour Party.

The Unite union, which called the complaints "vexatious", said it had been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing had taken place.

Mr Deans left his job at the Grangemouth oil refinery last year and decided not to seek re-election as chairman of Labour's constituency party in Falkirk.

The Falkirk seat is held by Eric Joyce, who resigned from the Labour party and now represents the constituency as an independent.

Labour's selection process for next year's general election has been mired in controversy, with allegations that Unite members had been signed up to the Falkirk Labour Party to ensure the union's favoured candidate was selected.
Stevie Deans was at the heart of the Falkirk candidate selection claims

In September, Labour said it had cleared the Unite union of trying to rig the selection process.

It said the decision was made after "key evidence" was "withdrawn".

But in November, The Sunday Times newspaper said it had seen 1,000 emails to and from Mr Deans, which it said revealed the full extent of the plot to influence selection of the candidate.

Its story also included extracts of the internal Labour report in which Labour officials said there were "deliberate attempts to frustrate" interviews with some of the key witnesses.

Police Scotland, which earlier this year dropped an investigation into the Falkirk allegations, was called in to study the emails, which were passed on by Mr Deans's employer Ineos.

A spokesperson for Ineos, which operates the huge Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemicals plant, said: "The Ineos investigation of Mr Deans was related to the misuse of Ineos procedures and systems.

"Mr Deans resigned prior to the final stage of the disciplinary process. The email cache was referred to the police and the information commissioner based on legal advice to protect the company."

A spokesman for the force said: "Following information received alleging misconduct by a member of staff at the Grangemouth refinery, a Police Scotland enquiry was undertaken.

"This enquiry has now concluded and there is no evidence of any criminality."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Unite has been vindicated in consistently saying that no wrongdoing or criminality has taken place and welcome Police Scotland's conclusion.

"It is shameful that the police's time has been wasted by vexatious complaints and their attentions diverted from catching real criminals and solving real crimes."

He added: "Stevie Deans is a decent and honourable man who has been smeared and hounded with a callous disregard for him and his family by those who should know better.

"The anti-union hysteria whipped up by certain sections of the media and their friends to pursue a spiteful agenda has been shocking. Their witch-hunt has been exposed to be without foundation."

Calamitous Cover Up (2 November 2014)

Dan Hodges is still a Labour Party supporter, as far as I know, although he did resign his membership of the party recently - so Dan's support is not unqualified and nor is he afraid of calling a spade as spade.

Which he does in this opinion piece about Unite and the 'vote-rigging' scandal in Falkirk - which became caught up in the nasty industrial dispute at Grangemouth that came within a whisker of the plant's closure.

Party politics and industrial relations are a toxic mixture that should be kept apart  at all times - but the events of recent weeks are damaging to all concerned and Dan Hodges is right to say that Unite's behaviour has made a mockery of Ed Miliband's pledge to be the champion of a new politics.

Unite and Len McCluskey are completely unapologetic, defiant even, about their behaviour and seem to be saying that they would do the same again - given the chance.

In other words the kind of machine politics that Ed Miliband promised to get rid of - is alive and well in the UK's largest trade union which doubles up, of course, as the Labour Party's biggest financial donor.

Falkirk's sordid cover-up damages the credibility of the unions, the Labour Party, and Ed Miliband

By Dan Hodges

Last month the Labour Party announced that it was halting its inquiry into the selection scandal in Falkirk. Over the weekend, thanks to the leaking of over a thousand emails to the Sunday Times, we know what that inquiry would have uncovered, had it been allowed to proceed.

The first thing it would have discovered is that the Unite trade union was indeed attempting to fix the selection on behalf of its favoured candidate Karie Murphy. In one of the “smoking” emails, Murphy expresses her desire for senior Unite official Stevie Deans to be elected “procedure secretary” for her ballot because it was “the best way to control the process”. Deans success in securing the chairmanship of the local party was described by Murphy in a separate email as nothing less than “a masterstroke considering the influence the chair has in a selection process”.

The second thing the inquiry would have discovered is that once Ed Miliband finally decided to take action over the scandal, Unite began to draw up a strategy to force the Labour leader to back-off. One idea the union came up with was to try to drag former Prime Minister Gordon Brown into the affair by getting him to intercede with his successor directly. One email from Howard Beckett, the Union’s director of legal and membership services, suggests “We will prepare for an approach to Gordon Brown wherein we ask Gordon to consider the potential damage this could do and request GB [Gordon Brown] do contact Ed M[iliband] in private”.

A second idea was to start drawing up information to smear Unite’s internal opponents. In another email Beckett wrote “Comms will prepare the nasty stuff we know of individuals in the Labour Party”. In the end, neither the approach to Brown, nor the plan to smear Unite’s opponents, were acted upon.

The third thing the inquiry would have discovered is how Unite directly intervened in the evidence of those who had claimed to witness attempts to rig the selection ballot. In particular, Unite focused on evidence supplied by members of the Kanes family, who were at the heart of allegations that people in the constituency had been signed up to the Labour Party without their consent.

Howard Beckett agreed to draw up “statements on behalf of the Kanes rebutting allegations in the report as to what they are alleged to have said”. He added that “Stevie [Deans] will arrange for these to be signed”. In response, Deans wrote “I’m happy with the draft letter and can get this to the Kane family and get it posted tonight”.

It appears that it was this letter, in which the Kanes claimed “We have no complaints against either Stevie Deans or Karie Murphy”, that was the catalyst for Labour for terminating its investigation, and reinstating the Deans and Murphy to the Labour party.

There is one other thing the inquiry would have uncovered. Alongside the ballot rigging, and the plan to pressure the leader of the Labour Party, and the alleged manipulation of evidence, it would have found that throughout the whole affair the Unite union lied, and lied and lied again.

The union said it had not been involved in attempting to fix the selection, when it had. It said it wanted an open investigation into the allegations, when in truth it was drawing up a strategy for getting Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to back off from investigating. It repeatedly claimed it had nothing to hide. But in fact it had lots to hide, not least over a thousand damning emails.

Back in June, when the scandal first broke, Ed Miliband gave a solemn pledge. "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,” he said.

This morning it’s not the good name of the Labour Party that is on the line, but that of Miliband himself. Unite have made a mockery of him, his party, and his pledge to be the agent of a “new politics”.

Labour sources point to the fact that Karie Murphy has withdrawn her name from consideration for the seat. And the Falkirk constituency remains in “special measures”, effectively in control of national party headquarters. A Labour spokesman said “Information has been passed to the police, and it’s right and proper for us to wait and see how that investigation proceeds. Once it has been concluded we will make a judgment on whether further action is taken”.

But the Labour Party themselves passed information to the police earlier in the affair. And on that occasion it did not prevent them from running their own internal investigation, or suspending party members.

Labour’s leader must reopen the investigation, suspend the individuals at the centre of the scandal and clear up this while sordid mess once and for all. It’s no longer about the rigging of one CLP selection. It’s about Ed Miliband’s credibility as a leader, and as a potential Prime Minister.

Trust and Betrayal (29 October 2014)

The latest bombshell to be dropped in the long running Grangemouth saga is that the Unite official over whom the union called a damaging strike - has resigned from his job rather than 'face the music' of a disciplinary hearing.

Here's how the BBC reported the news on its web site, but it has to be said that this is a real hammer blow to Unite's credibility at Grangemouth and elsewhere - another sign, if you ask me, that the union is prepared to play politics with people jobs and livelihoods.

Because why would the union jeopardise the future of the plant for someone who was accused of abusing his position as Unite's local union convener by carrying out  political work for the Labour Party - when he should have been representing union members.  

Unite has been complaining for months about Deans 'treatment' by company management - the inference being that he was being victimised and treated very unfairly - yet when push came to shove the Unite convener failed to defend himself against allegations which were reportedly backed up by hundreds of damning emails sent during working time.

In other words, the company's case was that while they were paying Deans to work for them and represent the interests of ordinary Unite members at the plant - Deans was actually devoting much of his time and energies on political matters to do with the Scottish Labour Party.    

Now if I were a member of Unite, I would be extremely angry at this latest turn of events - in fact I would feel completely betrayed.

To my mind Unite owes its members, the workforce at Grangemouth (who have been through hell recently) and the people of Scotland - a huge apology for trying to make monkeys of us all.   

Unite official Stephen Deans resigns from Grangemouth job

Mr Deans had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years

The Unite union official at the centre of the Grangemouth industrial dispute has resigned from his job at the facility.

Stephen Deans had been suspended by operator Ineos over claims he used company time for union business.

Ineos had been expected to reveal the outcome of a disciplinary case against him on Tuesday.

The union previously voted for strike action over his treatment, which led to last week's shutdown of the plant.

Mr Deans declined to comment when contacted by BBC Scotland. Unite said it would not comment until officials met union members at Grangemouth.

A statement released by Ineos confirmed Mr Deans had resigned from the company with immediate effect.

It said: "The company has conducted a thorough investigation into Mr Deans' activities over the last 18 months and made Mr Deans aware of these findings last week.

"Mr Deans requested an additional five days prior to the final disciplinary hearing to allow him time to provide any further relevant information.

"The company was due to meet with Mr Deans again tomorrow but has now received his resignation."

'Rigging' claims

Mr Deans, the convener of Unite in Scotland, had worked at Grangemouth for 24 years.

He had been accused of trying to rig the selection of a candidate for Westminster in his role as chairman of the Labour Party in the Falkirk constituency.

It was claimed he signed up dozens of new members for Labour, promising the recruits that Unite would pay their membership fees on the understanding that they would back the union's choice in the contest to select a new candidate to stand for parliament in Falkirk, to replace the disgraced Eric Joyce.

Mr Deans was suspended from the Labour Party but was later cleared by an investigation and reinstated.

“Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination” - Police Scotland

But Ineos carried out its own investigation into allegations that some of the new Labour members had been signed up in the refinery.

The row over his treatment erupted into a vote for strike action which was eventually called off by the union.

But the threat of industrial action led to Ineos shutting down the facility last week - before later announcing the site's petrochemical plant would shut permanently with the loss of 800 jobs.

The company eventually reversed that decision after staff agreed to implement changes to pay, pensions and conditions which Ineos said were necessary to ensure the survival of the petrochemical plant and the neighbouring oil refinery.

Labour MP Michael Connarty, whose Linlithgow and East Falkirk constituency includes Grangemouth, said he believed Mr Deans had been the ''subject of victimisation''.

Mr Connarty, who is currently at a conference in Lithuania, said he would be making no further comment until he had spoken to Mr Deans.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "This is a matter between Stevie Deans and Ineos."

There have been calls for Labour to reopen its investigation into the vote-rigging allegations after the Sunday Times claimed to have seen emails showing Unite had undermined its original inquiry.

The newspaper reports claimed a fresh complaint had been made to police on Friday about the Falkirk Labour Party's handling of its candidate selection.

In a statement, Police Scotland said: "Documents were handed into Falkirk Police Station and will be passed to our electronic crime unit for examination."