17:55 Monday 8th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: Now we’ve got some breaking news for you. The BBC understands that members of the Labour Party in Peterborough have written to the Party Leader Ed Miliband asking him to investigate the running of the local Party. So the Labour Party in Peterborough have asked the Leader of the Party to investigate the running of the local Party. It follows allegations which may have been repeatedly denied that members of the trade union Unite have played a role in selecting the city’s Parliamentary Candidate Lisa Forbes. Let’s get some more now from the BBC East’s Political Correspondent Andrew Sinclair, who joins me in the studio. Hello Andrew.
ANDREW SINCLAIR: Hi.
CHRIS MANN: As we said breaking news. What can you tell us?
ANDREW SINCLAIR: Well we know of at least three letters which have been sent to Ed Miliband over the last few days, and other senior figures within the national Party, asking them to look closely at what’s going on within the Peterborough Labour Party. The letters talk about bullying. They talk about intimidation. They talk about some very dubious events surrounding the selection of the Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough, Lisa Forbes. One of the letters says, “our own Members are vicious and vindictive to a degree that could never align to socialist values.” There are also allegations that these complaints have been reported to the Regional Party before, that very little has been done about it. Another email says ” there has been so much wrongdoing, people are getting fed up and they’re now walking away from the Party.” Another email talks about “ small caucuses that meet clandestinely in contravention of Party rules.” Now it’s important to stress that these are just allegations. We’ve seen no hard evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been going on in Peterborough. Local parties, particularly local Labour parties, do fall out from time to time. They are notorious for having internal rows.
CHRIS MANN: Especially over selection processes, and candidates, and all the rest of it. It’s a very factionist process, isn’t it?
ANDREW SINCLAIR: It is. And what’s interesting about these emails is that people aren’t necessarily talking about the selection process or the candidate, although there are some hints in here that something dodgy may have happened, although that is clearly being denied at the moment. And these complaints have been around for a while. What seems to have prompted this flurry of letters now is this row over the selection of the Labour candidate in Falkirk, where it’s been alleged that the Unite union rigged the vote. Now recent minutes from a Unite meeting boasted that the Union had helped influence the selection of Lisa Forbes as Peterborough’s Candidate for the Labour Party. Now there’s nothing wrong with unions campaigning for or supporting candidates, and there’s nothing at the moment to suggest that Unite have done anything wrong in Peterborough. But what we do know from these emails is, whether there’s a problem with the selection or not, there are a lot of unhappy people within the Peterborough Labour Party, and they’re looking to the Party leadership to do something about this.
CHRIS MANN: Do we have a comment yet from either Unite or the Labour Party?
ANDREW SINCLAIR: Nothing from Unite. The Labour party has given us the briefest of statements saying that “The Peterborough selection was fair and transparent. The Labour Party is determined to ensure that every candidate is selected in an open and fair way, and we’ve taken clear and strong action to ensure our rules are followed.” So Labour saying, look, nothing dodgy has happened over the selection of Lisa Forbes. As for the other matters, the matters that talk about bullying and intimidation and things like that, Labour are saying look, this is an internal Party matter. We’re not going to comment on the content
CHRIS MANN: Where next for this Andrew?
ANDREW SINCLAIR: It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will people actually speak out now, and say yes, there is a problem with Peterborough. The Labour Party is coming under great pressure at the moment. Ed Miliband in particular is coming under great pressure to show that his party is open and transparent, that it will accept people, whatever their beliefs, and whatever their opinions are. This sort of thing will be embarrassing to Labour.
This could just be a small little local difficulty. It could be something bigger. There’s nothing to suggest there’s anything bigger, but this is embarrassing for Labour.
CHRIS MANN: Thank you Andrew Sinclair.