Labour Leadership Election Clouded By Controversy

By Adam George

This time next week we will know the winner of the Labour Party leadership election, whether it be the Welsh Owen Smith or the controversial Jeremy Corbyn. The election comes just twelve months after the longstanding MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn, was elected as leader of the Labour Party. Corbyn entered last year’s election as the dark horse candidate after he only just managed to obtain enough nominations to get himself on the ballot paper. However, as the campaign progressed, opinion polls showed that Corbyn was actually leading the race. This led to numerous interventions from prominent Labour figures such as Tony Blair, David Miliband and Jack Straw, who suggested that the election of Corbyn would leave the Labour Party unelectable. Despite these interventions, Corbyn won the election by a landslide with 59.5 per cent of the votes giving himself a solid mandate as leader of the party. However, since then it has not been an easy time for the Labour leader with the Parliamentary Labour Party refusing to accept the result which has led to fighting within the party, culminating in a new leadership election.

This leadership election was called after a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party arose following criticism of his supposedly half-hearted support for the Remain campaign in the E.U referendum. After a period of tension surrounding Corbyn’s leadership, the direct trigger to events was the Leave result of the referendum. Hilary Benn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary was sacked by Corbyn on June 25th after Benn expressed no confidence in the leader. Over twenty members of the Shadow Cabinet resigned over the following two days, and on June 28th a no-confidence vote was supported by 172 MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party, against only 40 supporting Corbyn. By the end of June, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith were being touted as potential candidates to contest the leadership. Eagle announced her candidacy on 11 July, with Smith doing likewise on July 13. However, Eagle dropped out of the leadership race on July 19 after receiving less nominations than Owen Smith. The National Executive Committee decided that, as the incumbent, Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot without requiring nominations from Labour MPs.

It is fair to say that the campaign has been clouded by controversy from the very beginning. At the start of the campaign the Labour Party agreed that anybody that had become a party member after January 12 2016 would be ineligible to vote, even if they had paid the full membership fee. It is believed that more than 130,000 people have joined the party since that date, with the majority doing so to support the leader. Since then the controversy has grown with more than 3,000 people being “purged” from the leadership election. These individuals have been barred from voting for Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith in the contest, either because their conduct failed to comply with the ‘aims and values’ of Labour or they have previously supported another party. The shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, claimed that these actions were actually “a rigged purge of Corbyn supporters”. Party sources pointed out that the total excluded was equivalent to less than half of one per cent of the 650,000-strong selectorate – and a long way from claims by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that the election was being skewed by a “rigged purge”. But Corbyn supporters may still argue that thousands of people have been denied a chance to vote, without full explanations as to exactly why.

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