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Labour's Supporter Witch-Hunt

30/07/2015 10:17 BST | Updated 29/07/2016 10:59 BST

You may have seen the utter panic expressed by the Labour Party in recent days at the rate of registered supporter sign-ups.

You would have thought that Labour MPs might have been pleased to have finally appealed to the electorate, only 2 months too late. This though, is not the case. Obviously the idea that a mass of people actually find reason to engage with the party and its leadership election is so ludicrous that it must be part of a conspiracy to bring the party down from the inside.

Harriet Harman and John Mann have perhaps been the most prominent within the party to express their concerns about the estimated 20,000 people who will have registered as a Supporter, or 50-60,000 who will have registered as an affiliate (by the trade unions, etc.).

Jeremy Corbyn's presence on the ballot, apparently, is the cause of much renewed enthusiasm for the Labour election. The 'hard left' and a few rogue Tories (#ToriesforJez) have formed some unlikely common ground in their desire to elect Corbyn as Labour Party leader. These two camps though, have little else in common. The 'hard left' would like to see Corbyn elected, as he is a proponent of many of their ideals - for them, he represents everything the Labour Party should be. The ToriesforJez however, actively want to see the Labour Party fail, and are intending to vote as an act of malice, thinking (knowing) that the party will face a very real internal struggle if Corbyn is elected. Ludicrously, it is the 'hard left' that are being portrayed as villains, and, for Mann, cause to halt the elections.

In the midst of this new 'red scare' and in response to Mann, Harman has said that the party is in the process of "weeding out bogus Labour leadership voters". I don't believe that this is a legitimate course of action though.

It's easy to accept that ToriesforJez have all the wrong motives, and accepting votes from them would be foolish. Having said that though, Labour's right to reject voters though, stems from the following line in their supporter registration form:

"I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it."

Which leads to the obvious question, whether or not the 'hard left' even comprised of organisations opposed to the Labour Party?

In the electoral sense, yes, it is. However, most (if not all) parties on the left wing would like to see more proportional representation, and of course, under a system of PR, we would be unlikely to ever see a (strong) majority government again. The 'hard left' would, presumably, back a Labour government on many issues, especially with Corbyn as Labour leader.

It's hard to argue therefore that these parties are directly opposed to the party. Which makes it all the more important to separate the 'hard left' from the 'ToriesforJez' when talking about infiltrators.

In any case, I certainly don't remember agreeing to such a clause when I registered - if I had, I may have taken longer to consider registering, being a Green Party member - and so I decided to look into it.

As it turns out, this line was not present on 26th May, some 2 weeks after Andy Burnham made himself the 3rd candidate vying for nominations. This is apparent if you view this Internet Archive link.

The sentence was added sometime between May 26th and the next time a snapshot was taken, June 27th. At the time of publishing, the Labour Party had not replied to my request for further information on its addition.

2015-07-29-1438162973-4106277-LabourSupporter.png

The difference a month makes.

I don't believe it to be coincidental that Corbyn's declaration of candidacy also fell between these two dates on June 3rd, and I would be shocked to discover that the sentence was added before this date.

Further evidence of a change in policy can be seen in Labour's first press release on the election, where Harman is quoted as saying:

"Anyone - providing they are on the electoral register, can become a registered supporter, pay £3 to and have a vote to decide our next leader."

These inconsistencies, I believe, put rest to any idea that the fears are of an undemocratic result, and indicates that they are instead fears of Corbyn winning the election. Otherwise, the clause would have existed for exactly the same amount of time as the 'Supporter' system.

I, perhaps foolishly, believed that Labour were going to hold an open leadership election, like the French Socialist Party did successfully in 2011. Maybe they would have, if not for Corbyn's popularity. Now though, they have increasingly stepped further and further back from this, and have engaged in a witch-hunt looking to find and purge themselves of every 'supporter' who may be a member of another party. I just hope I don't get burnt as a witch.