Labour is seeking legal advice to ensure its leadership election is being conducted according to party rules, amid fears that the contest is being infiltrated by people who oppose the party.
A spokesperson for acting leader Harriet Harman confirmed that the party had called in lawyers to ensure that the process would not be open to challenge, but denied that there were any plans to halt or suspend the process.
Under new rules anyone can vote if they pay £3 to register as a supporter, which prompted concerns that the system was being gamed by people who support other parties. About 400,000 people have become eligible to vote in the contest since the general election, swelling the electorate to 600,000.
A spokeswoman for Harman denied that legal advice had been sought as a result of the worries over “entryism” from the left and right. “The party’s focus is on making sure that the rules are fully complied with, as we said last week we have taken legal advice to make sure that the rules are being complied with and that all due diligence as possible was being done,” she said.
A Labour spokesperson repeated that the party had “a robust system” to prevent fraudulent or malicious applications and duplicate votes. “All applications to join the Labour party as a member, affiliate or supporter are verified and those who do not share Labour’s aims and values will be denied a vote,” he said.
Earlier this month Tory minister Tim Loughton was caught in the party’s vetting process attempting to register to vote for Labour’s new leader, and a number of Twitter users who took part in an online campaign to persuade Conservative party supporters to sign up and vote for Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to damage Labour’s electoral chances posted pictures of ballot papers they claim to have been sent.
It also emerged that 150 people who stood as candidates for the Green party, 92 members and candidates with the Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition (Tusc) and 18 senior figures from Left Unity had registered to vote.
Jeremy Corbyn, the most leftwing of the four candidates, has a firm lead in the most recent polling, boosted by support from registered supporters, with Paddy Power already paying out on bets that he will win the contest.
On Wednesday, former Labour home secretary David Blunkett added his voice to a string of warnings from senior party figures – including Tony Blair, Neil Kinnock, Jack Straw, Gordon Brown and David Miliband – that a Corbyn win would risk turning the party into a mere pressure group.
Blunkett said he understood that there was “a kind of nostalgia” for the 1980s, “an era when there was a battle laid in such a way that it invigorated all that were inside it, but it didn’t invigorate the electorate who we were relying on to put us in power.”
“What’s on my heart is what happened to us in the early 1980s and yes it was invigorating, it was exhilarating. I was leader of Sheffield city council, I was a member of the national executive of the Labour party. We filled halls, we filled Trafalgar Square and we were hammered in the 1983 election, and again in 87 and again in 92.”
On Wednesday, the Daily Record, the most widely read Scottish tabloid, gave its backing to Corbyn for Labour leader. Corbyn said he was “humbled” to have received the paper’s support.
“I’m sure that at least in part, this endorsement will have been made with Labour’s future in Scotland in mind, which is important as Labour has a real need to reconnect with communities in Scotland if we are to succeed across the UK,” he said. “Labour cannot advance in Scotland if we do not reconnect with the Scottish people and we cannot win a general election without speaking to Scotland.”
Sarah Brown, an education campaigner and the wife of former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, on Wednesday tweeted her support for Yvette Cooper to be the party’s next leader, adding that she would be voting for Andy Burnham second.
On Sunday Gordon Brown gave a speech at the Royal Festival Hall in London in which he warned voters against choosing Jeremy Corbyn, suggesting that the MP for Islington North could damage international relations by allying with Hezbollah, Hamas, Venezuela and Russia. The former PM did not mention any of the candidates by name and has not given any of them his formal backing.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th August 2015 09.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010