Union leaders demand answers over Labour handling of online selection votes

Tom Belger

Four Labour-affiliated trade union leaders have written to the party’s general secretary warning that concerns over its handling of online votes in candidate selections have not been “adequately and transparently addressed”.

Mick Whelan of Aslef, Dave Ward of the CWU, Maryam Eslamdoust of the TSSA and Matt Wrack of the FBU called for “speedy” answers to a series of questions about how online ballots are run when the party picks prospective parliamentary candidates. Whelan is also chair of Labour Unions, which co-ordinates affiliated unions’ relationship with the party.

In the letter, seen by LabourList, they told David Evans they want Labour to “operate at the highest level of transparency and integrity” to ensure voters can trust the party, but pointed to concerns over the recent Croydon East selection process.

Letter follow police probe and de-selected MPs’ concerns

Labour halted the south London selection last November to look into alleged inaccuracies in membership data.

It admitted this month following a probe that members’ data had been changed on party systems “without authorisation”. It did not say more however on who was thought responsible, what action was being taken to establish this or the scale of the altered data. The party acknowledged it meant some members may not have got certain party communications, but did not spell out whether this meant some members had received some candidates’ campaign materials and not others.

Shortly after the party’s statement, the Met Police confirmed its cyber-crime team were investigating alleged “computer misuse” in relation to the selection.

Also this month, lawyers for Labour MP Sam Tarry wrote another letter to the party about his own re-selection contest in Ilford South in 2022, raising “serious concerns” over the process, including the handling of online votes.

The Telegraph reported a second MP on the left of the party who lost a recent selection, Beth Winter, has similarly written to the party previously over concerns about the running of her 2023 contest. It reported Tarry is also now considering legal action to force Labour to release data on the ballot itself, as he hopes to appeal the result.

More than 3,000 people have signed a new petition by Labour left campaign group Momentum this month too, demanding an independent investigation into Labour’s selection processes, led by a senior lawyer.

Union leaders’ questions for Labour

The union general secretaries ask multiple questions about how the party uses Anonyvoter, the software system used for online ballots during selection contests, and whether procedures are as robust as for postal or in-person ballots.

They ask for a copy of any procedure documents in place that “ensure fairness and consistency across selections”.

They ask: “What assurances are there around the accuracy and integrity of the data which is uploaded to the Anonyvoter system?

“What access is given to candidates in a selection to verify the accuracy of Anonyvoter voting, so they can be assured of the fairness of any result?”

They also ask if there have been any complaints involving allegations of unfair practices related to Anonyvoter, and how these have been handled, including whether those selections have always been paused.

They warn that if their questions cannot be answered they would have “grave doubts” about the party continuing to use the Anonyvoter system, and would want both a “moratorium” on its use until they are satisfied by controls in place, and a “speedy and transparent resolution to all outstanding complaints”.

The Momentum petition also calls for Anonyvoter’s use to be suspended.

Labour has ‘full confidence’ in process and systems

The party’s general secretary is said to have told the most recent meeting of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) this week that the focus on Anonyvoter was “misplaced and misdirected”, according to two sources at the meeting.

It was “fake news” to suggest the issues in Croydon East had anything to do with the system, Evans reportedly told the NEC.

A Labour party spokesperson previously told LabourList they had “full confidence” in both the party’s selection process and the Anonyvoter system.

Anonyvoter previously declined to comment.

Neither responded to request for comment for this article.



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