Labour extends leadership voter registration deadline after website crash

Ed Miliband

Labour has extended the deadline for people to sign up to vote for its new leader after its website crashed and dozens of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn began to raise concerns about being excluded.

The party issued an apology on Twitter after its online registration form for supporters suffered technical difficulties on Wednesday morning, with just hours to go before the midday cut-off point. The deadline was then extended until 3pm as people continued to experience problems signing up.

The glitch happened as the party struggled to cope with almost 250,000 new members and supporters, each of whom is being checked to make sure they are not “entryists” from other parties trying to influence the result. Around 88,000 have still not been vetted.

Amid concerns among MPs and within some of the candidates’ campaigns about the credibility of the process, Labour has already weeded out 1,800 applicants and has another 800 under investigation. These include more than 200 people who stood as Green candidates, a Conservative MP, and filmmaker Ken Loach, who is a founder of the socialist Left Unity party.

The first batch of ballots will be sent out to longstanding members from Friday, with a YouGov poll suggesting Corbyn is way out in front with around 53% of support. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are now vying for second place, while Liz Kendall appears to be far behind.

More ballot papers and emails will then go out over the coming weeks, with 48 officials in Newcastle and a further 30 in London working round the clock to verify all the new applications in time.

The party will continue disqualifying applicants it believes do not share Labour values even after the deadline for signing up has passed.

A number of Corbyn supporters are worried about the possibility they will be excluded after receiving notifications of further checks or hearing nothing back after trying to sign up.

One British man living in Switzerland who voted Labour at the election and wants to support Corbyn, said he was told his application was not being progressed, and then heard nothing back after he sent proof of citizenship.

“I am reading a lot about the fight against ‘entryism’, but because I made it explicit in my application to join the Labour party that I intended to vote for Jeremy Corbyn I believe they are obstructing my application,” he said. “The Labour party legally have access to the electoral register and could have confirmed the required information inside the seven days between my application and the rejection date.”

Other people attempting to register as supporters received emails on Tuesday telling them they had until noon on Wednesday to reactivate their membership in order to secure a vote.

Brian Marley, a Brighton-based writer who received a confirmation email from Labour in June, said he then received an email telling him he needed to reactivate his membership if he wanted to vote.

He said he was surprised to receive the latest message and believed it was part of a “dirty tricks” campaign to eliminate newcomers and returning Labour members who were eager to back Corbyn.

Email to Brian Marley from Labour
A screenshot of part of the email from the Labour Party received on Tuesday evening by Brian Marley. Photograph: Brian Marley

At least one other Labour supporter reported what appeared to be similar concerns:

However, Labour said the emails about reactivating membership were simply sent out to a list of former members and would not affect any pending applications. The party said a second email was sent out clarifying any confusion.

Dozens of Corbyn supporters have also written on the Guardian readers’ live blog with worries that their applications will not be accepted.

One reader, Stuart Ellis, said he had joined up as an affiliated supporter through Unite on the day after the election, having been involved in leftwing politics in his youth and helping the Lib Dems fight the Tories in his local seat, but never actually becoming a member of any political party.

He received his membership card around a week later and went to a few hustings, his local Labour party meeting and a few leadership events.

But he was then surprised to receive an email from Unite on Tuesday afternoon saying his application was being subject to checks by the Labour party.

“I assumed my membership was kosher until this morning when I saw the email. I’m not sure if it’s happening to all affiliated members and supporters, or if I’ve been picked out of a hat for a random audit, or if something seems fishy about my circumstances or if something about my particularly weird political background triggered a warning light,” he said.

Other Corbyn supporters complained that the party said it could not find them on the electoral register, even though they voted three months ago, while many were worried that a brief flirtation with the Greens at the last election would disqualify them from having a say.

A senior Labour source said there was absolutely no reason for people to be worried unless they were clear supporters of other parties, and applicants were likely to receive their ballots as normal, even if they had not been given explicit confirmation. A party spokeswoman said the process was “fair and robust”.

Amid the confusion, some within Labour, including the MPs Barry Sheerman and Simon Danczuk, both Kendall supporters, called for a pause in the contest to stop “entryists” signing up to vote for Corbyn despite not being true party supporters.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason, Ben Quinn, James Walsh and Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 12th August 2015 12.25 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010