I have done my fair share of stupid things, obv. Generally, though, when I’ve done something I’ve later regretted it’s been because I’ve acted impulsively. I guess I have this in common with a lot of other people: act in haste, repent at leisure. It takes a special type of person, though, to actually give something a lot of thought yet still consistently do the unimaginably stupid thing.
Here’s a press release from Pat Rafferty, the elaborately coiffed Scotland Secretary of the trade union Unite. Pat was unhappy that some people had been suggesting that something was amiss with the way Unite have been recruiting people to the Labour Party. It had been suggested that some of the new ‘members’ may not be what they seemed; that there may have been an attempt in Scotland by Unite to stitch up the selection process for my Westminster constituency of Falkirk. The UK Labour party has, after a lengthy investigation, found that there was indeed cause for alarm.
You’ll see that in the release, Pat consistently refers to the selection process as the selection process for Falkirk West. Falkirk West is a Holyrood constituency, as is Falkirk East. The relevant, larger, Westminster Constituency is simply ‘Falkirk Constituency’. In Scotland, Labour organises around Holyrood constituencies, not Westminster ones. So Falkirk West and Falkirk East constituency Labour parties (CLPs) mirror the Holyrood boundaries, not the larger Westminster ones. Oh, well. Silly mistake. Fair enough.
Not quite. When I had the temerity to suggest that Pat was confusing the two, that he was referring to a selection process for ‘Falkirk West’ when he meant the selection process for the larger Westminster constituency of ‘Falkirk’, Unite did what any self-respecting working-class bloke would do – reached for the lawyers. I received this from Unite’s solicitors:
“Our client has in no way ‘confused’ the organisational and administrative details of the two relevant Constituency Labour Parties. They are clear that the Westminster parliamentary constituency is ‘Falkirk’, of which 75% of Labour Party members belong to Falkirk West Constituency and 25% to Falkirk East Constituency Labour Party…..there is therefore no confusion and therefore (sic) your allegation again is simply misleading”
What? Look again at the press release. My only thought was, why would a solicitor not advise his or her client that what they were asserting was patently controverted by the facts and they were making a complete arse of themselves?
I wrote back:
“Your client’s press statement (linked) is entitled “Setting the Record Straight on Falkirk West“. The first sentence of the statement is: “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“. The first sentence of the second para reads: “At all times during the process for selection of a Labour Party Candidate for Falkirk West”. The statement concludes with: “Unite’s focus now is to get beyond the whispers and the faceless briefers and get behind the best candidate for Falkirk West”.
You will be aware that the Labour selection process is for a Westminster Candidate for Falkirk, not Falkirk West. It is impossible to reconcile your clients position at 4a (i.e. that it knew the difference between Falkirk West and Falkirk East Consituencies) with its statement at 4b (confusing the two). It is entirely clear that when your client issued its press statement, it believed the candidate selection process was one for ‘Falkirk West’ and not ‘Falkirk’. It is manifestly clear that your client’s statement, and indeed your statement, to the contrary is untrue”.
Well no-one could say Unite doesn’t know the difference between Falkirk and Falkirk West now, right?
Ah. Here’s the beginning of Unite’s press release of 2 days ago on the subject of the Falkirk Constituency Labour selection process: “Unite rejects the decisions taken today by the Labour Party in relation to the Falkirk West selection process”.
The strategy seems to be that if you keep saying it, blindly ignoring reality, it’ll become true. Dumb and Dumber.
No doubt any further response will be run past their lawyers again. More on this tomorrow.
And maybe the day after. And at the weekend.