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20 July 2016updated 12 Oct 2023 10:19am

Pro-Corbyn crowdfunders rapped over “buying” votes

The websites aimed to raise the £25 fee for those who couldn't pay. 

By Julia Rampen

Pro-Corbyn Labour members have been warned about crowdfunding websites that break the rules on voting in the Labour leadership contest. 

The Staggers understands that those involved could face expulsion if they don’t respond to the party’s concerns. 

A Labour spokeswoman said:  “It is an abuse of Labour party rules for one individual or group to ‘buy’ support for another individual or group who is otherwise unwilling to pay their own supporter fee.”

More money, more votes

After Labour’s National Executive Committee decided registered supporters must pay £25 to vote, crowdfunding websites sprang up, with one even based in Australia

To the outside observer, these websites seemed like another example of The Internet Helping People.

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One JustGiving website states:

The figure of £25 is a discriminatory price that will clearly exclude a great many from being able to take part in this vote. The purpose of this page is to raise money to provide to those who wish to vote. That money has to be raised quickly, as we will need to register as supporters between 18th-20th July in order to secure the right to vote.

But from another perspective, these sites are a grave violation of Labour party rules. Tom Harris, a former Labour MP for Glasgow South, believes the practice comes dangerously close to buying votes. 

He told The Staggers: “This kind of crowdfunding is absolutely against the spirit of the rules. It is just ludicrous.

“The Labour Party and other parties have a long corrupt tradition of local candidates paying for their extended family to have membership to pack out local selection meetings. This is not any worse than packing out the Labour Party electorate in a leadership contest.”

Underpinning crowdfunding critics’ suspicions is the scandal in Falkirk, where there were allegations of factions “flooding” the constituency party with new members (a Labour investigation later found no rules had been broken). 

Gloves are off

It’s hard to know the motivation behind the Corbyn crowdfunding websites, but one thing is clear – both sides of the Labour divide have been trying to pack the party full of as many sympathetic registered supporters as possible. 

While the party’s National Executive Committee may be keeping tabs on Corbyn fundraisers, the Information Commissioner’s Office has rapped the knuckles of anti-Corbynites targeting lapsed Labour members.

An ICO spokeswoman: “We are aware of concerns about the use of Labour membership data and will be making enquiries.”

The deadline for registering has now passed. But these episodes have created yet more wounds in the Labour Party. The next leader had better have healing balm. 

 

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