A CITY councillor with ambitions to become an MSP is at the centre of a row after 40 new members recruited to her local Labour party were later disqualified.
About 15 of the new recruits had their membership fees paid for on a single credit card, while others were found not to live at the addresses they had given.
The new members were recruited through the Edinburgh Labour Community Cohesion Task Force, an organisation set up and chaired by Leith Walk councillor Angela Blacklock, who is said to want to succeed long-serving Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm at the next Holyrood election in 2016.
Cllr Blacklock today said there had been nothing underhand, and claimed she had not yet decided whether to put her name forward for nomination.
A source said the apparent irregularities surrounding the recruitment of the 40 members had caused a lot of disquiet within the party.
The source said: “Angela may have been one of two frontrunners to take over from Malcolm, but now that looks unlikely. There’s no suggestion she has done anything that breached the rules – it’s the responsibility of individual members to be honest about where they live – but this has damaged her chances.”
Sources said an internal investigation was sparked when it was drawn to the attention of party officials that many of the new members had paid with the same credit card. It was also discovered that some recruits did not live at addresses within the constituency.
One insider said: “Under Labour Party rules, you can only be a member at the address where you are registered to vote. It would look from the outside as if someone is trying to stuff the membership so they have an influence on the local party. That’s not allowed.”
Cllr Blacklock said she understood an inexperienced member of the party had paid for the members on his credit card after they had handed over cash. She said: “If anything has been done incorrectly as regards credit cards it was not underhand, it was because a lot of people wanted to pay cash.”
Local party chairman Zeeshan Saeed, who had recently been elected to the post, confirmed that during the membership drive some recruits had given him cash and asked him to pay their membership.
He said: “When I spoke to Labour headquarters they said that wasn’t in accordance with the procedures and the money was returned to the members.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Scottish Labour has robust procedures for investigating membership anomalies and has taken swift action to invalidate memberships which do not meet party rules.
“It will be the members in the Edinburgh North and Leith constituency who take the key decisions for the party in this community and we will continue to support them to do so.”