Labour has been left humiliated after being forced to go “cap in hand” to a security company it had pledged to boycott for help to police its annual conference – only to be rejected.
G4S, which has policed the event for 20 years, is understood to be concerned about staff safety after Labour voted for a boycott over its prison contracts and links to Israel.
It follows a warning from union boss Len McCluskey that the conference could be cancelled unless a provider is found urgently.
Sources close to the company warned that short notice and previous incidents at the event, including staff being spat at and verbally abused, made it impossible for G4S to accept the offer.
It leaves the party without a security provider and facing the possibility of cancelling the conference or calling the Police in to help at great expense, because of an ongoing row with the only other provider in the running, Showsec.
The GMB union has warned its members will picket the conference and stage a walkout if Showsec is awarded the contract because of a row over union recognition for its staff.
No other security firm has put forward a bid to police the conference in Liverpool, leading to fears it could be cancelled with just weeks to go.
Labour is understood to have approached G4S earlier this week and asked it to provide the security for party conference, an offer which the company turned down.
In a statement the managing director for events in the UK at G4S, Eric Alexander, told the Telegraph: “This is a large, complex event, which we would ordinarily plan up to a year in advance.
“Security officers need to be cleared and accredited to work, detailed risk assessments made, safety and security plans with the Home Office and local police forces drawn up and supporting logistics, such as security equipment and staff accommodation, put in place.
“Our team of more than 100 security staff has secured the Labour Party’s annual conference for over 20 years and the feedback from officials and the police on our work last year, as in the past, was extremely positive.
“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 and provide security for the conference.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said We don’t comment on commercial arrangements.
The party voted to boycott G4S earlier this year and leader Jeremy Corbyn has been vocal in his dislike for the company, which has a number of contracts in Israel.
As a result, the party was forced to ask other firms to provide the security for conference but only one made a formal bid, Showsec, and three others are understood to have refused.
Airport style scanners and security barriers are used to form a secure ring around the conference venue to provide safety for delegates and prevent the event becoming a terror target.
Earlier this month GMB, one of Labour’s biggest backers, warned Showsec could not provide security because it has not signed a formal recognition agreement with the union.
But Showsec, which claims it is not “anti-unions” has refused to do so and says it has a partnership agreement in place with GMB.
A leaked letter from GMB boss Tim Roache to Unite boss Mr McCluskey prompted a fierce row between the unions, who back different candidates for the Labour leadership.
Mr Roache said: “The GMB will not allow a Labour party conference to take place with a security company that refuses to recognise GMB.
As you know, we are the dominant union in the security sector, and we will not tolerate any attempt by other unions to find a solution by dreaming up an inferior recognition agreement.
If Showsec do not sign our standard agreement, GMB will be forced to boycott and picket conference and many friends and colleagues will find themselves unable to cross our picket line.”
In response, Mr McCluskey warned the conference may not go ahead unless an alternative is found.
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