In yet another twist for the rollercoaster that is the Labour leadership contest, reports have emerged that up to a quarter of applications for registered supporter status may have been rejected.
Backers of Jeremy Corbyn claim that 40,000 of the 183,000 people who recently paid £25 for the opportunity to vote have been disqualified.
Labour HQ claims that it’s too early to provide accurate figures, and stresses that most disqualifications are due to administrative reasons, such as someone’s address not tallying with the open electoral register.
Emails like this one have been sent to applicants with discrepancies in their application:
Thank you for applying to become a supporter of the Labour Party.
To complete your application and ensure you get a vote we do need to make sure you are on the electoral register first.
Unfortunately we were not able to match you based on the details provided. You need to get back to us within 72 hours of receiving this email or you will not be able to vote in the election.
When we cannot match details supplied against the electoral register, it’s usually for one of the four reasons below, which should be easy to resolve.
If you are unsure whether you are on the electoral register, apply by going to gov.uk/register-to-vote. You will receive a confirmation email and you should forward this to us at this address as evidence of your application.
It’s possible that you may have submitted details to us that differ slightly from how you appear on the electoral register. If you think this is the case, you should email us with the details you think will match.
Sometimes our records aren’t up-to-date with local council records. So if you have any proof that you are on the electoral register (e.g. an email from your council confirming you are on the register, or an image of a recent polling card) you can email this to us at this address.
If you believe you are on the electoral register but you do not have proof, please reply to this email and we will re-check the electoral register manually to see if we can find you. Please remember you will need to get back to us within 72 hours of receiving this email or you will not be able to vote.
The Labour Party
However, last year’s election – in which registered supporters could pay £3 for the chance to vote – also saw potential voters disqualified if they had actively supported another political party.
Dubbed “Operation Icepick” by some onlookers, the process removed those who were, for instance, high-profile members of another party, or had posted online about joining one.
This should not come as a surprise. As my colleague Stephen Bush wrote last Autumn:
As one staffer reflected, the problem is that “We sell Labour membership as being about values and let people forget that they have to sign up to the aims too”. All but a vanishingly small number of Labour’s new recruits are not Conservatives out to do the party harm – like Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, or the right-wing commentator Toby Young – but people who share the party’s views and outlook.
It’s not their support for the old Clause IV, but their opposition to Clause I – the election of a parliamentary Labour party against all opposition, even the likes of Caroline Lucas and Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party – that is causing the trouble.
This does not mean the process is error-free, of course – yet it is a different scenario from the orchestrated “purge” of Corbyn supporters some activists have suggested may be underway.
The incumbent leader remains the favourite to win the race.