Q. How are people who are not Labour supporters prevented from voting in the leadership election?
A. Tens of thousands of new members and supporters have signed up to vote in the contest. The Labour Party, unsurprisingly, simply does not have the resources to check out each name as it comes through, so for someone to be investigated the person basically needs to be reported (the easiest way to do this is emailing firstname.lastname@example.org).
Each day, a list is drawn up of these names and sent to a three-person panel on the National Executive Committee. It is the job of those three committee members to investigate each name on the list – quite a big task.
That’s why CLP chairs are being encouraged to look through local sign-ups to spot names they might recognise as being anti-Labour, and Harman is asking Labour MPs to do the same.
Q. Is entryism happening?
A. No one I have spoken to inside the party believes that any organised entryism is happening on a serious or widespread scale. There could be rag-tag Trot groups taking advantage of the new system, but so far there is no evidence to suggest anyone needs to be concerned. While plenty of people have signed up who shouldn’t have, it appears to be individuals, not groups.
Q. How many have been blocked so far?
A. Not many, but there are increasing number being referred every day. Earlier this week, the total struck off the list was only about 100, but that will be higher now.
This number is at odds with those being reported – The Times today says around 1,000 have been blocked. That could mean that there is another method for removing names from the list (if they are obvious figures in other parties for instance), using party staffers. The party did not confirm nor deny that this was the case.
It could be that those signed up for full membership do not need to go through the NEC process and can be dealt with by the party internally – I believe Derek Hatton’s membership was handled in this way – and that may explain the different numbers reported.
Q. How long did it take for Tory MP Tim Loughton to be caught?
A. Just a few days – the party claims his name was noted on Tuesday, a day before the story broke, but did not say when he signed up.
Contact details of new members and supporters are sent to various campaigns on a daily basis, and one insider told me his name had been sent to them the previous Thursday.
Q. I’ve tweeted criticisms of the Labour Party – will I be blocked?
A. This quote from a Labour source quoted in The Times has been doing the rounds on Twitter: “Anybody identified as a public critic of the party or seen to do it down will not be given a ballot paper.”
Many Labour supporters have pointed out that this could be them done for if the rules are as strict as they sound, but my sources tell me there is a far more level-headed approach. Despairing about the Labour Party online is acceptable, as is liking the Facebook page of an opposition party or politician, but if they find you come across as against the Labour Party, you’ll be knocked off the list.
Q. I’ve signed up as an affiliate through my trade union – can I be blocked?
A. Yes. Under the electoral college, every member of an affiliated union got a vote, even if they were an active member of a another political party. The new system means that affiliated trade unionists must also sign up to Labour’s core aims and values to vote, and this precludes support of other parties.
Q. Is the process going to be postponed?
A. There are rumours that it could be, but nothing is set in stone. The turnover between last day to sign up as a member and ballots going out is so short, just two days, that concerns are being raised – especially with unions expected to deliver their full lists before Wednesday’s deadline (Unite alone are believed to have between 70,000 and 90,000 of their members). Duplicates (people who have membership and signed up as supporters) need to be weeded out too.
There is nothing substantial to suggest this might happen, but rumours are certainly pointing towards it as a possibility. This could not only effect the ballots, but also when the new leader is announced – with the likelihood it would be pushed back one week.