Troubled Labour Party May Be Forced To Cancel Annual Conference

labour party

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party, already in the throes of a bitterly divisive leadership contest after June’s Brexit vote, is facing more turmoil as a row over security jeopardises the staging of its annual conference.

One of Labour’s biggest supporting trade unions has objected to the proposed security firm, and now a potential replacement, G4S, has declined a last-minute request to step into the breach.

Labour is due to begin its conference in Liverpool, north west England, on Sept. 25, the day after the leadership contest result reveals whether veteran left-wing party leader Jeremy Corbyn has clung on to his job.

Labour’s National Executive Committee voted last year to boycott long-term conference security provider G4S over its links to Israeli prisons, but the company said it had now been asked by the party to step in.

“This is a large, complex event, which we would ordinarily plan up to a year in advance,” Eric Alexander, Managing Director for G4S Events (UK), said in a statement.

“Our team of more than 100 security staff has secured the Labour Party’s annual conference for over 20 years … Clearly we were disappointed not to continue such a successful working relationship. Safety for delegates and our staff is our priority and at this late stage and with our teams committed elsewhere, we are not in a position to step in.”

G4S, the world’s largest security company, has been involved in a string of controversies in Britain, including failing to supply enough staff for the 2012 London Olympics and overcharging the government in a contract to tag criminals. More recently, however, it had appeared to put the problems behind it.

A spokesman for the Labour Party said it did not comment on commercial arrangements.

The GMB trade union, which represents security industry workers, has objected to the use of security provider Showsec, saying it had refused to sign a union recognition agreement. The GMB has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is chosen.

The union, which describes itself as the third-largest affiliated to Labour, has donated more than 1 million pounds ($1.3 million)to the party this year, according to Electoral Commission data.

A Labour Party source said the conference would still take place and security contract negotiations were ongoing.

Large security barriers and airport-style scanners are usually placed around political party conference venues to protect politicians and delegates. In 1984 the Conservative Party conference was bombed by Irish Republican militants.