The battle for the Labour leadership was becoming increasingly fraught yesterday as allies of Jeremy Corbyn expressed concerns that more than a quarter of new supporters who signed up to the party could be prevented from voting. Backers of the Labour leader, who faces a challenge from Owen Smith, say 40,000 of the 183,000 people who joined as registered supporters in recent weeks, paying £25 for the chance to vote, have been disqualified by Labour, with another 10,000 referred to a scrutiny committee. Party officials insist it is too early to tally any numbers and say that if people are denied a vote it is generally for administrative reasons, for example, their application does not tally with the electoral register, or they can already vote by another means such as trade union affiliation. However, potential electors can also be disqualified if it is found they actively support another party. Those close to Corbyn say they fear many of those denied a vote are being weeded out for political reasons. “It’s definitely a worry,” one ally said.
Diane Abbott, a key ally of Corbyn and shadow health secretary, said the leader’s opponents must realise that the membership has moved to the left. Writing in the Guardian on Tuesday, she said: “The idea that the new members are a phantom army who will melt away if only Corbyn can be forced out of the leadership is a delusion put about by his enemies.
“Like [Bernie] Sanders, the left insurgency Corbyn is associated with is not about one man or a cult of personality. The insurgency on both sides of the Atlantic is about millions of people realising that ‘a better way is possible’ and wanting to move beyond neoliberalism. That realisation is not going away.”