By Pat Rafferty, Unite Scotland regional secretary
Over the last few weeks there has been a lot said about Unite’s involvement in the selection of Labour’s candidate for Falkirk West. First off, let me spell this out clearly for the off the record gossips and muck-spreaders, who have been hiding in the shadows, Unite has done absolutely nothing wrong.
Unite’s political strategy is about strengthening democracy within the Labour party not undermining it. At all times during the process for selection of a Labour party candidate for Falkirk West our conduct has been consistent with the rules of the party. There have never been any procedural abuses by Unite and people joining the Labour party are local residents living in the Falkirk West constituency.
Our approach is clear, open and locally determined – indeed it began to take shape in Falkirk long before any candidate declared, because local members wanted the best for their town – not because of some sinister scheme rolled out by a kingmaker from behind a desk in London, but genuinely ‘Made in Scotland’.
Our aim is to help high calibre working people find their way to Westminster or Holyrood so that they can play their part in delivering the changed politics ordinary people in our nation so desperately need.
We work with our members to encourage support for candidates who share Unite’s vision for the people of Scotland. Why wouldn’t we? We want a Scotland where the people’s voices are heard in the palaces of power, where our economy and public services are run for the public good, and where our children can look forward to a future in the country they call home.
These are the values and aspirations of ordinary decent people and Unite is not afraid to stand up and fight for them.
At the end of the day these selections are one member-one vote and undertaken privately by individual members who have minds of their own. They are not some passive voting lump dictated to by their ‘higher ups’ and will make their decision on what they think is right for Falkirk. It is an insult to Scottish Labour party supporters to suggest otherwise.
Indeed, we do not and never will ‘parachute’ any candidate into a seat as some suggest. The irony here is that the anger and smears directed at Unite in recent weeks have arisen only because we are now using the very same system that benefited the likes of Eric Joyce when they got selected.
But we are using it to support decent, hard-working people who would have little other support when challenging members of the ‘professional’ political classes who see their access to a seat as an entitlement.
The pressure Karie Murphy has come under from this ‘professional’ political class sniping from the shadows should not be allowed to dent her reputation as a highly articulate and passionate woman with a history of fighting for ordinary people.
Labour has a battle on its hands in Scotland to convince its people that it is on their side. Falkirk West itself needs an MP that puts their interests first.
Unite’s focus now is to get beyond the whispers and the faceless briefers and get behind the best candidate for Falkirk West.