Chaos: le­gal­ity of Labour leader race in ques­tion over mass sign up of trade union­ists


THE le­gal­ity of the Scot­tish Labour lead­er­ship con­test has been ques­tioned after Anas Sar­war’s cam­paign ob­tained a le­gal opinion on the mass sign-up of sup­port­ers by the Unite trade union.

Sar­war’s team took ad­vice from a QC over a re­cruit­ment drive that may have led to thou­sands of Unite mem­bers – many of whom are be­lieved to sup­port ri­val lead­er­ship con­tender Richard Leonard – get­ting a vote in the frac­tious con­test.

How­ever, al­though a source in the Sar­war camp said the opinion brought the “le­gal­ity of the process into se­ri­ous ques­tion”, the in­sider ruled out a court chal­lenge.

A Unite spokesman re­sponded: “This is ridicu­lous. The Labour party has con­firmed time and again that Unite’s mem­bers have signed up to this elec­tion le­git­i­mately and in full com­pli­ance with the rules. These hints and in­nu­en­dos are a smoke­screen to di­vert from dis­cus­sion from the real is­sues at stake. They only bring the Sar­war cam­paign into dis­re­pute for ef­fec­tively try­ing to ex­clude trade union mem­bers who are en­ti­tled to a vote.”

The lead­er­ship bat­tle be­tween Sar­war, a critic of Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, and Richard Leonard, a sup­porter, has de­scended into a bit­ter fight over who should get a vote in the con­test.

Sar­war sup­port­ers are be­lieved to have signed up thou­sands of new mem­bers. But ques­tions have been raised about re­cruits shar­ing mo­bile phone num­bers while liv­ing at dif­fer­ent ad­dresses.

Leonard’s camp has ben­e­fited from a huge in­flux of trade union sup­port­ers to vote in the con­test, par­tic­u­larly from Unite. Sar­war’s side has com­plained about a text mes­sage Unite sent that led to po­ten­tially thou­sands of peo­ple be­com­ing el­i­gi­ble to vote.

Labour MP Ian Mur­ray, a Sar­war sup­porter, wrote to party gen­eral sec­re­tary Brian Roy claim­ing there was “no doubt what­so­ever” that the Unite re­cruit­ment drive broke party rules. He also warned the elec­tion process was be­ing “rigged” to help Leonard, ac­cu­sa­tions Unite strongly de­nied.

One source in the Sar­war camp said: “Given the level of con­cern raised about Unite’s sign-up process via text mes­sage, ex­pert le­gal ad­vice from a top QC was ob­tained that sig­nif­i­cantly strength­ened those con­cerns about Unite’s prac­tices, bring­ing the le­gal­ity of the process into se­ri­ous ques­tion.

“But in the in­ter­ests of party unity, and to al­low the cam­paign to focus on the pol­icy de­bate that mem­bers want, no fur­ther ac­tion was

Ac­cu­sa­tions of Unite try­ing to ‘fix’ the lead­er­ship elec­tion are ab­so­lutely out­ra­geous and to­tally un­founded

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