Kendall, Cooper and Burnham - pictured here with Jeremy Corbyn - have sent a joint letter to Labour HQ. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Burnham, Cooper and Kendall issue a letter to Labour HQ raising concerns over the ballot

The three non-Corbyn campaigns have sent a joint letter alleging that unfair processing of affiliated supporters, drawn from trade unions, brings the integrity of the election into doubt.

In a remarkable intervention, the campaigns of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have issued a joint letter to Labour HQ, highlighting concerns over the integrity of the ballot.

Although the £3 scheme - where members of the public can participate in the election for just £3 - has attracted controversy, with MPs and activists concerned it has opened the process up to sabotage by the party's enemies, it is not this aspect of Labour's new "One Person, One Vote" electoral system that is causing concern.

Instead, it is the affiliated supporters drawn from trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party that the centrist campaigns believe are impeding a fair election.

Campaign sources say that the contact details of trade union members - some 90,000 strong - are being withheld from their campaigns.

Meanwhile, insiders report that the details of trade union members have been passed onto party headquarters with their telephone numbers scrubbed, preventing either the party or the candidates from contacting them.

But, they allege, the Jeremy Corbyn campaign has been given direct access to these members, handing them an advantage. But an aide to the Corbyn campaign insisted that no such advantage is being extended their way. "Each of the campaigns are sent the data of supporters and members at the same time. No campaign gets any part of the data ahead of the others."

The Cooper, Burnham and Kendall teams are also pushing for the party to tell all four campaigns when members have voted to prevent activists being bombarded with unnecessary communications.

Dear Iain

We are writing following the meeting with campaign teams yesterday morning.  There are two issues we wish to follow-up on.

Lists of members/registered supporters/affiliated supporters

We are concerned we will only receive accurate lists in around 10 day’s time, which hinders each campaign’s effort. It would appear unreasonable for an election to be taking place without the provision of a full list of voters. If you are sharing the information with ERS, then it is reasonable for the campaign teams to also be provided with it. It was mentioned in the meeting that the data could contain individuals who have not been fully validated, however, if ERS are able to use this data then I believe the campaign teams should also be able to use it, on the understanding that individuals may later be excluded. We believe it is essential that campaign teams have maximum ability to contact potential voters, especially as the affiliated supporters data is likely to be made available to candidates who have the respective union support. This would not be a level playing field for all candidates. We would ask that the Procedures Committee consider making this data available to campaign teams 48 hours before it is provided to the ERS. It is likely that people receiving their ballot details will vote within 48 hours of receiving them and so campaign teams will be hugely disadvantaged if they are not in receipt of the data until some 5 days later.

Lists of members still to vote

We also feel it would be reasonable to provide lists of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters who have voted. This will help us focus our effort on voters who have yet to cast their ballots. It would also mean that we are not calling members who have already voted.

We understand the Procedures Committee is in the tomorrow and believe that these are important agenda items for discussion at that meeting. We would be grateful if you would ensure this email is tabled at the meeting, and would ask for a response afterwards.
Kind regards

Vernon Coaker (Yvette Cooper campaign)

Michael Dugher (Andy Burnham campaign)

Toby Perkins (Liz Kendall campaign)

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.