Hang on a minute – you may still be able to vote in the Labour leadership election

Emily Apple

The rules around who can and cannot vote in the Labour leadership election have been confusing to say the least. But it now appears that union members and other affiliated groups can vote if they became a member of that organisation on or before 12 January 2016.

According to information on union websites such as those of GMB and Unite, which is backed up by the Labour party’s official site, affiliated supporters can vote if they are:

Members of affiliated trade unions, socialist societies and other affiliated organisations who individually sign up as an affiliated supporter to the Labour Party. They must have been a member of that organisation on or before the 12 January 2016.

The deadline to sign up as an affiliated supporter is 8 August 2016.

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This image from Unite also makes it clear:


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When Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) first made its decision to change the rules over who could vote in the election, including the controversial decision to increase the £3 fee for supporting membership to £25, joining an affiliated union was initially seen as being a workaround for people wanting to vote.

But once the rules on the leadership were published, it appeared that the same six-month time limit applied for members also applied for registration as an affiliate member. In other words, even if you’d been a member of a trade union for years, it seemed like you’d no longer be able to sign up as an affiliate and have a vote if you hadn’t done so six months ago.

It was therefore widely presented that the only way new members could vote was to cough up the £25 demanded by the NEC. And people did this in their thousands – with over 180,000 people signing up. It is unknown how many of these people would have been eligible to vote via their union if the rules had been clearer. And it is even more doubtful that they’ll get a refund if this is the case.

So just to reiterate, if you’ve been a member of an affiliated union or socialist society since either 12 January 2016 or before – the full list of eligible organisations is here, then you have until noon on 8 August to join Labour as a supporter for free and have a vote in the leadership election.

In 2015, around 6.5 million people were registered members of a trade union. While large numbers of these people will not be members of one of the affiliated unions, many will be. And these people can still have a voice in the election without paying any money.

Even for people following the ins and outs of the leadership contest and its rules, it has been incredibly confusing. It’s tempting to say this has been a deliberate obfuscation on the part of the NEC to disenfranchise people. But it may be that, having changed the rules at the last minute, they have also been confused about how they should be interpreted.

Regardless, the results have been the same, and people have felt disenfranchised. It has made a mockery of what should have been a straightforward democratic process. But this news should be welcome to many people who thought they may not have been eligible to vote.

Get involved!

If you are a member of an affiliated union or socialist organisation and have been since before 12 January 2016, then you can sign up to be a supporting member here. As long as you register by noon on 8 August, this should give you a vote in the leadership election.

Featured image via Wikimedia and Wikimedia

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