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3 August 2016

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith campaigns investigated over texts

Leadership candidates are not allowed to send unsolicited marketing messages. 

By Julia Rampen

At the weekend, Labour supporters were rudely interrupted from their dreams by 4am texts from leadership challenger Owen Smith asking: “Can I count on your support?”

But The Staggers learns the Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating both campaign teams for their use of campaign texts.

A spokeswoman said: “We’re aware of these messages and are making enquiries to establish whether they were sent in line with the law.” This applied to both campaigns, she confirmed. 

The text from Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, received by The Staggers on a personal mobile a day after the aforementioned one from Owen Smith, states: 

Jeremy Corbyn here. I’m running for leader to build a Labour movement serious about winning power. Will you back me?

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The Corbyn campaign says it is complying with regulations.The Smith campaign blamed the late night texts on a “technical glitch”, but this does not explain the texts themselves.

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The one received by The Staggers states:

I’m standing for leader because I want Labour to deliver policies that matter to us all. Ending failed Tory austerity. Investing 200bn pounds in public services. Strengthening workers’ rights. Can I count on your support? Owen Smith. 

In last year’s Labour leadership campaign, candidates happily exploited Labour’s vast membership database to get their message across.

But the ICO later rapped Labour for allowing members to be spammed, and the party issued guidelines for this year’s contest. It said: 

If the Labour Party or its elected members intend to send marketing material to individuals (regardless of their membership status) it should ensure that consent is gained. A facility should be provided to allow the individual to consent to each method the Labour Party or its elected
members wish to contact them by.

The implication of this direction is that candidates in internal Labour Party elections MUST NOT be given access to lists of existing registered and affiliated supporters which allow for unsolicited marketing messages to be sent by email or telephone. Indeed, there must be explicit consent given by each supporter to receiving marketing messages by each and every channel of communication. 

This is significant. The Staggers is a Labour member, but did not give a personal mobile out to either the Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith’s campaign marketing team (only to certain individual contacts in the press team). This suggests that membership data is being shared with both campaigns. 

On the other hand, both texts received did offer the option of opting out from further messages (and The Staggers gratefully did). 

While the Smith campaign declined to comment, a Corbyn campaign spokesman said: “Our campaign has fully complied with Labour Party regulations – including the new guidance on consent to contact – and have met our obligations under the Data Protection Act.”