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