Labour purges thousands of voters from the leadership election, then pours salt in the open wound

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40,000 ‘registered supporters’ who paid for the right to vote in the Labour leadership election have been banned from doing so. And to add insult to injury, the party is keeping the £25 it charged them for the electoral signup.

Another 10,000 people are being subjected to further scrutiny by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC), meaning Labour could swipe up to £1,250,000 from its own supporters by the end of the purge. At present, that figure is already at a cool million from the 40,000 barred so far.

A controversial NEC rule previously banned members who had joined the party after 12 January 2016 from voting. But these people, along with non-members, could still vote as a ‘registered supporter’ provided they pay the fee, which the NEC had raised from £3 to £25.

Considering that 40,000 registered supporters have now been purged, some people may be both full members and have paid another £25 to vote, only to be barred from doing so yet again.

In the available window of just 48 hours, 185,000 people signed up as registered supporters to vote in the Labour leadership contest. Questions will now be raised about why the democratic exercise has been restricted by the exclusion of nearly a quarter of these potential voters.

Excluded voters deserve answers

The Huffington Post claims:

Most of those ruled out automatically are deemed ineligible because of their previous formal support for a rival political party candidate, their absence from the electoral register or because their payments bounced.

Read on...

A Labour party source claims that the majority of those excluded were for technical rather than political reasons. But sceptics will note that this position is very convenient, given that technicalities are much less controversial than political purges. This could well be seen as a way of avoiding the widespread anger which erupted during the 2015 leadership election after many potential voters were excluded for apparently not supporting “the aims and values of the Labour party”.

Indeed, a leaked internal party document states that registered supporters may face NEC judgement should they use the terms “traitor”, “scab”, or “scum” (among others). Critics have questioned why only labels that are directed at the ‘right’ of the party have been specified, rather than terms like ‘Trot’, ‘dog‘, and others directed at the party’s ‘left’.

A vetting process may well be necessary to make sure political opponents are not subverting the Labour party’s democratic process. But considering that Tory MPs can defect to the parliamentary Labour party (PLP), people will be confused as to why they cannot defect from the Greens to Labour, for example, and be welcomed for doing so rather than barred from participating in the party’s internal democracy.

The Editor-in-Chief of The Canary, Kerry-anne Mendoza, was purged from the leadership election last year for stating on Twitter why she could no longer vote Labour. She explained:

I stated how sad I was to be unable to vote for an outstanding local Labour MP because the leadership of the party were standing on the promise to continue Osborne’s failed austerity programme. Labour used this Twitter conversation as an excuse to reject me from voting.

It appears that, according to these tribalist rules, people have to vote Labour no matter what the party’s values and aims are. Whether the leadership is bombing Iraq or investing in public services, their support must be unwavering. Or they will be barred from participating in the party.

Labour members who joined after 12 January were promised a vote in the leadership election when they handed over membership fees. Consequently, the party is now facing a legal challenge from a group of full members, represented by Harrison Grant solicitors, who want their retroactive disenfranchisement to be revoked. £28,000 was crowdfunded for the proceedings, and a high court case will be heard on Thursday.

Astonishingly, over 130,000 people have joined the Labour party since the EU referendum and subsequent parliamentary coup against Jeremy Corbyn. To put this in perspective, the Conservative party has around 149,000 members in total. A lot of these new Labour members are believed to be supporters of the incumbent, so critics argue that banning a large number of them from voting constitutes anti-Corbyn gerrymandering. Indeed, the NEC has not provided any valid reason for discouraging and retroactively disenfranchising, rather than welcoming, new party members.

With the other rules perceived as being anti-Corbyn, the incumbent’s supporters will be worried about deliberate attempts to purge them from voting. The Labour machine hiked the voting fee eight-fold to £25 and then still barred a huge portion from participating. But it won’t be able to select the electoral boundaries for a general election. Only if the Labour elites include all of their almost 600,000-strong membership will this contest become a bigger democratic exercise, and more representative of the electorate as a whole.

Get involved!

Were you barred from voting after paying £25 as a ‘registered supporter’? Contact [email protected]

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Wikimedia/YouTube

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