Labour slammed over “unfair” data membership fees and delays

Complaints are mounting from Labour candidates who are frustrated about the party charging fees to access membership data that will now be delayed.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who is running for the deputy leadership, called on Thursday for the party to stop any ballots dropping before all candidates had received full data of every eligible voter in the contests.

LabourList understands that the leadership and deputy leadership hopefuls have been told that they will be sent membership data on Saturday, after the close of nominations, but will not receive affiliate data at the same time.

Candidates have today been informed that the fee for accessing this partly delayed data – which will allow them to campaign for votes on an equal footing with each other – also consists of a VAT charge of £1,000.

Update, 6.15pm: Campaigns interpreted the communication to mean that the fee had been increased from £5,000 to a total of £6,000 for each candidate. But LabourList understands that the VAT charge will be included in the £5,000 charge. However, at least one of the campaigns has already paid £6,000 to the party.

According to LabourList sources, campaigns have asked for a breakdown of how the data money will be spent, but this has not yet been provided, though the party said there were costs associated with GDPR.

Allin-Khan told LabourList: “It’s unfair for the Labour Party to charge for member lists – candidates should be entitled to them without financial barriers. However, for that data to be effectively sold to candidates and VAT added is deeply worrying.

“Selling member data for exorbitant fees disadvantages campaigns with less financial resources. This is the kind of behaviour that would have discouraged someone like me, from a poor background, from getting involved in politics.

“Members don’t want their data sold to candidates – they want a truly fair contest. Instead of hiking up administrative and handling fees like this, the Labour Party must provide all membership and supporter data immediately, to all candidates, so that we can present ourselves and our ideas to our members and supporters.”

Another candidate in the deputy race, Ian Murray, said: “This unfair charge should be abolished – not increased by another £1,000 at the 11th hour when we are supposed to get the data. It’s an absolute scandal.

“The Labour Party should be ashamed of putting financial barriers like this in the way of people who want the opportunity to stand for party posts.

“It discriminates against grassroots member-backed campaigns like my campaign, and does not live up to our promise to be a party for the many, not the few.

“We haven’t budgeted for this and right now we don’t have the money. My campaign will be raising this directly with the party.”

Murray has written to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby asking for the fee to be dropped, or “at the very least” for the VAT to be “absorbed by the Labour Party”, and for a payment plan to be available to campaigns “or the invoice terms should be changed to 30 days”.

Responding to the apparent fee hike, another deputy hopeful Dawn Butler tweeted: “I have just been told that the party wants £6,000 for incomplete data. £6k! @DrRosena they’ve added £1k VAT! feel free to add this latest atrocity to your letter.”

When campaign teams met with the party on Thursday afternoon, LabourList sources say they were not given a specific time for receipt of the data on Saturday – expected to be in the afternoon – nor the later arrival of affiliates data.

Another concern that has been raised is the extent to which the order that candidates will be able to email members and affiliates could affect the contest. To decide the order, a member of the digital team drew ballots in front of campaign staffers.

But there are worries that the first candidate to put out an email will have their message seen by more voters, as the party must provide an option to unsubscribe from the mailing list according to GDPR rules.

As the number of unsubscribers is likely to increase with every email, and the open rate will probably go down, the candidates who are allowed to email members later than their rivals are thought to be disadvantaged.

LabourList understands that campaign teams have been told email ballots will drop between February 24th and 26th, and every eligible voter should have received their ballot by the close of this window. However, there is some scepticism that this will happen.

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