Labour beset by difficulties as party does not have full, up-to-date membership list

Sienna Rodgers

The Labour Party is beset by problems as it does not currently have a full and up-to-date membership list due to the “cyber incident” that took place in October affecting a third party, which was a ransomware attack, LabourList can reveal.

Members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) were sent a paper this week stating: “The number of CLP delegates to annual conference is based on paid-up members as of 31 December of the previous year.

“However, as a result of the recent cyber incident, there was not a full and up-to-date membership list in existence as of 31 December 2021.”

LabourList understands that the membership list is not complete because it does not accurately record which members are currently in arrears, and that Labour does not have an accurate arrears list beyond the start of December 2021.

Labour informed members in November of a “cyber incident” on an unnamed third party handling data on behalf of the party, which resulted in a “significant quantity of party data being rendered inaccessible on their systems”.

LabourList has now learnt that the third party is digital agency Tangent, which ran Labour’s online members’ centre, and that the “cyber incident” in question was a ransomware attack.

Sources say Tangent refused to pay the sum demanded by the hackers, which prompted the attackers to corrupt the data and to permanently remove Labour’s ability to access it. Tangent has been contacted for comment.

It was confirmed to LabourList in early November that Labour’s membership website https://labourmembership.com was unreachable due to the cyber incident, and it continues to be down.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We continue to work hard to resolve issues arising from the cyber incident experienced last October by a third party that handles data on our behalf.”

Not knowing which Labour members are currently in arrears has affected the way in which selection meetings are held, as local parties are required to check whether members are eligible to vote for their preferred candidates.

One Labour member tasked with performing eligibility checks told LabourList that without an up-to-date list they were forced to ask for screenshots showing payments to the party as proof that members were not in arrears.

Ahead of local elections in May, a number of areas have not been able to select their council candidates. The delays are thought to be caused both by Labour’s data problems and by its financial difficulties, which have led to staff cuts.

After cutting almost 80 staff last year, Labour has asked employees to accept a real-terms pay cut to compensate for the loss of more than £3m to falling membership and reduced trade union support, Politico reported today.

Employees have been offered a 2% pay uplift for next year, which is a real-terms cut, while directors have had their pay frozen. Labour is understood to be hoping for large private donations and has held donor events in a bid to attract contributions.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We have been open about the challenges the party faces. Party staff have done great work to tackle these challenges and everyone is focused on ensuring we are ready to fight the next general election.”

Labour NEC member Ann Black today described current total membership figures as “hard to obtain” due to the “loss of access to membership data”, with figures “around the 437,000 mark” not being accurate as they include “several tens of thousands in arrears”.

Black said: “My best guess is that paid-up membership is currently still around 400,000, more than double that during most of the Blair-Brown era, and relatively stable. That is supported by numbers in my local party, though every constituency will be different.”

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