POLITICS

Tory MP Tim Loughton Caught Red-Handed Attempting To Register To Vote In Labour Leadership Election

05/08/2015 15:44 BST | Updated 05/08/2015 17:59 BST

A Tory MP and ex-minister has failed in his attempt to get a vote in the Labour Party’s leadership election after he was caught paying a £3 membership fee that would have allowed him to take part.

Tim Loughton, the former schools minister, claimed he wanted to expose the "farce" that lets anyone vote so long as they pay the modest fee to become a "registered supporter".

His barely-disguised ambush, spotted during the party's vetting process, comes amid both high-profile Tory supporters and hard-left activists reportedly infiltrating the party, via the same method, to boost the chances of left-wing front-runner Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Loughton said he made no attempt to hide his intent, writing in his application that he wanted to vote "Jeremy Corbyn and consign Labour to oblivion for a generation".

tim loughton

The former education minister said: "If I’d got a voting paper I was going to tweet myself ripping it up, just to make a point about how ridiculous the whole open exercise is."

A Labour source said: “While we are delighted to hear Tim shares Labour’s aims and values, unfortunately he won’t be able to vote in our leadership election.

"We would like to thank him for his generous donation to the Labour Party, which we are keeping. If he wants to donate more money he is very welcome to do so via our website.”

Mr Loughton, who signed up using his parliamentary email address and home postal address, told the Guardian he had no intention of actually voting but wanted to “blow the gaffe on what a complete farce the whole thing is”.

“If I’d got a voting paper I was going to tweet myself ripping it up, just to make a point about how ridiculous the whole open exercise is,” he said.

“In the box at the end of the application it asks: ‘What are your reasons for wanting to become a supporter of the Labour party?’ I put: ‘To vote to Jeremy Corbyn and consign Labour to oblivion for a generation’ and then I got a ‘welcome to the Labour party’ email.

"I wasn’t exactly hiding my intent.”

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Under new rules, anyone can vote if they pay £3 and sign up as a registered supporter by midday on Wednesday 12 August.

To date, 21,000 registered supporters have joined since nominations for the leadership closed, and a further 20,000 full members have also come on board.

Tory supporters have mounted the #ToriesforCorbyn Twitter campaign to elect the veteran Islington North MP, believing it will shatter the party's chances of re-election.

But fears have been stoked of so-called "entryism" of militant left-wing activists also backing the 66-year-old frontrunner, who is opposed to austerity and wants public services re-nationalised.

As part of the process, would-be registered supporters have to tick a box saying they support the aims and values of the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn himself has insisted that only people who support Labour should sign up to vote in the contest.

Labour MPs have been sent the names of the new recruits in their constituencies, and asked them to weed out known opponents.