All those who wanted to vote in Labour’s Leadership elections needed to register by close of play on Wednesday 12th August. Here in North Norfolk, in this geographically remote and, for Labour, politically hopeless constituency, the numbers eligible to vote have more than doubled.
The party line is that there is a robust process of verification in place for handling this surge in membership. To quote from guidance we have received:
‘Nationally there has been, and will continue to be, an extensive and robust process of verification of those who seek a vote either as a new member, affiliated supporter or registered supporter. This process checks that they support the Labour Party and are on the electoral register.’
The guidance goes on to invite us to contact the central membership team if we have any concerns and we have evidence that someone does not support the Labour Party. Flatteringly we are told that our knowledge and information is important to uphold the integrity of the leadership election.
We are a widespread constituency with no full-time officials, no office, and are entirely reliant on part-time volunteers. There were 48 council seats contested in North Norfolk at the May elections. The Conservatives, Lib-Dems, Ukip and Greens fought most of them. Every nomination required 10 signatures. We could, it is true, run a check on these 1500 or so signatories – if we had the time, energy and implication. It may be that we would recognise one or two prominent names simply by looking at the list of those joining. But even that is doubtful.
However the truth is that anyone who is prepared to pay £3 can vote – irrespective of their political views. The only checks are whether a person is on the electoral register and whether they have publicly or prominently campaigned against the Labour Party recently. To pretend otherwise is nonsense. The procedures are about as robust as the sandcastles my grandchildren built at Wells-next-the-sea last week.