Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Cannot organise an election in a constituency?

Harriet Harman has written to all Labour MPs asking them to check new members are not trying to skew the party’s leadership contest.

Each MP has been sent a list of new members from their constituency so they can check for suspicious names. …

Ms Harman, the acting leader, wants to ensure anyone who does not “share Labour’s values” is weeded out. …

Last week Ms Harman told the Guardian a similar email had been sent to constituency Labour parties.
BBC News Website 5 August 2015 : Labour leadership: Harriet Harman warns MPs over new members

This has all the makings of a shambles. What happens if an MP or constituency official “discovers” someone “suspicious”? Ballot papers go out shortly, so what is to be done?

Presumably a single MP or constituency official cannot suspend someone and deny them their leadership vote – that goes against natural justice and in itself would be “suspicious” and open to accusations of manipulation even gerrymandering.

On 29 July (just over a week ago) @UKLabour tweeted:

You’ve not got long to join as a Labour member if you want to vote for our next leader. Click here to get started

In May Harriet Harman wrote personally to me inviting me to join:

I want you to have your say in Labour’s upcoming Leader and Deputy Leadership elections.

The next Labour leader will lead the fightback against the Tories and define Labour’s future. Who we choose is a crucial decision — and one that I want you to be involved in making.

To be able to vote you need to do one of two things: either become a Registered Supporter for a £3 one-off fee, or join the 39,373 people who have become fully-fledged, card-carrying Labour Party members since the election.*

Which would you like to do, ████████?

Thanks,

Harriet Harman
Acting Leader of the Labour Party

If you offer easy membership (or supportership) with no qualifying period, you are just asking for “entryists” to join.

Want to vote in the Leadership elections? All members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters who join before 12pm on the 12 August can vote. Click here to become a registered supporter or click here to become a member.
Labour Party Website [5 August 2015] : Labour’s leadership contest : Key Information

These new entryist supporters will:

  • either be “proper Socialists” joining because they believe that at long last the party might have a chance to return to its roots
  • or mischievous “non-supporters” joining to skew the election to the advantage of another party they support.

Now I suspect that the rabid Blairites would want to exclude both of the above classes of new member.

Anyone signing up is asked to confirm: “I support the aims and values of the Labour Party.”
BBC News Website 5 August 2015 : Labour leadership: Harriet Harman warns MPs over new members

Mischievous Tories probably can wheedle their way to making such a confirmation – and would probably be quite prepared to try and argue that since they share views on issues like Welfare Cuts with the likes of Harriet Harman they must share the aims and values of the Labour Party and should not be denied the leadership vote that they have bought for £3.

But if you support the aims and values being espoused by Jeremy Corbyn, can a Blairite MP or official seek to suspend your voting rights?

Either there has to be some form of fast appeal mechanism or the party will have to start issuing “conditional ballots” in the hope that they can declare that “supporter votes” can be ignored because “they would not affect the result”. The numbers involved make the latter unlikely.

Around 65,000 of Labour’s 275,000 full members have joined since the May general election. Another 35,000 have paid £3 to become registered supporters, which gives them a vote in the leadership contest. A further 35,000 trade union members have signed up for free as affiliated supporters. The cut-off date is 12 August, after which voting will start.
The Independent 5 August 2015 : Labour ordered to vet members who apply to join party amid fears ‘entryists’ signing up to vote for Jeremy Corbyn

In trying to get away from the “electoral college” and perceptions of union barons deciding contests, the Labour Party – or Harriet Harman may have created a monster.

How did the party decide to change the rules for electing its leader – surely one of the most fundamental parts of a party’s constitution or rules? From reading the party’s house newspaper it looks as if it was an idea by its acting leader to encourage equality and inclusiveness:

Labour’s interim leader, Harriet Harman, has announced that any registered voter will be able to help choose the party’s next leader for a £3 fee, prompting fears that the contest could be sabotaged by political opponents.

In a speech at Labour HQ in London, Harman said she wanted to “let the public in” to the contest, and said that people who were not party members or affiliated supporters through a union or Labour-linked organisation would be able to vote.

She said: “Anyone – providing they are on the electoral register – can become a registered supporter, pay £3 and have a vote to decide our next leader. This is the first time a political party in this country has opened up its leadership contest in this way and I think there will be a real appetite for it out there.”
The Guardian 18 May 2015 : Harriet Harman: voters can pay £3 to help choose next Labour leader

I hope that these rules were at least “nodded through” the National Executive – but would have expected that in a “democratic” party such changes would have been put to the existing membership. Did the Spring 2015 ExCel conference decision anticipate such a potentially shambolic “free for all”?

If it was not, can the existing MP’s turn round and slap down this whole shambles as another instance of an interim leader over-reaching their authority? Or does that take us back to the old electoral college?

It does possibly however point to the importance of the other election – the one for deputy leader. If Jeremy Corbyn happens to win the leadership and the predicted “Very British Coup” takes place, it is the deputy who steps up as Interim Leader – and to this outsider the perception is that the Interim Leader decides the rules for the next leadership election!

At least the Labour Party are not the entertainment managers in a brewery – just a prospective government in waiting.


Come on ladies all, come on ladies all
One Three pound fishy
Have-a, have-a look vote
One Three pound fishy
Very, very good, very, very cheap
One Three pound fishy
Six for five Two votes for three pound
One Three pound each
© Warner Music Group

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