Labour has so far selected candidates backed by Unite in four marginal West Midland seats – and the selection process for a fifth seat where the union is supporting a candidate is soon to be concluded.
But Unite’s favoured candidates failed to be selected in two further West Midlands seats.
Details of 41 seats where Unite was supporting potential Labour candidates were revealed in a report by Steve Hart, the union’s political director, presented to the union’s executive council on May 11 and later leaked.
They include Falkirk, Scotland, where police are investigating the selection process at the request of the Labour Party.
Conservatives have attempted to draw a link between Falkirk and the other seats on the list, calling for the selection process to be suspended in every constituency named.
But there’s no evidence of a “fix” in those seats, and there’s nothing in Labour’s rules to prevent a union supporting potential candidates.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey stated over the weekend: “Unite is supporting candidates who want radical policies.
“I make no apologies for that. Unite is proud that it is trying to reclaim Labour from the people that bought in to the free-market myth wholesale, who bet the country’s future on the City of London – and who sometimes fiddled their expenses while they were at it.”
This has gone down badly with some Labour figures. John Reid, the former Labour Home Secretary, warned that an “ideological battle” over the future of the party is being waged.
Labour candidates supported by Unite include Mike O’Brien, selected to fight North Warwickshire, Rob Marris, selected to fight Wolverhampton South West, Pete Lowe, selected to fight Stourbridge, and Steph Peacock, selected to fight Halesowen and Rowley Regis.
They’re not all Unite members. For example, Coun Lowe, a Dudley councillor, is a Unison officer. However, they were all included on the list of 41 candidates supported by Unite.
Unite is also backing a potential candidate in Dudley South, where Labour’s selection process is still underway.
But in other Midland seats, the union failed to get its preferred candidate selected. They include Nuneaton and Birmingham Yardley.
Ed Miliband invited the candidate who was selected for Yardley, Jess Phillips, to introduce him when he made his high-profile speech setting out proposals to reform Labour’s relationship with the unions.
She pointed out that she had been selected “not because of my links with any union, company or political pressure group”.
She said: “In fact for the exact opposite reason, because I was none of these things, I am not sure they even cared about me being a member of the party. What I was, was a member of a community. A community who had done something brilliant, we had got organised.”
Ms Phillips led a campaign against anti-social behaviour in her neighbourhood, bringing together police, local councillors and landlords and hundreds of residents.