The headline, by the way, is in no way meant to imply that I myself tried to register and was denied a vote in the Labour leadership contest. I never attempted to do so. But at the moment, a process known to some as “Operation Icepick”, or #LabourPurge is underway, one that has staffers at Labour HQ vetting the £3 army for those not deemed Labour enough to deserve a vote. This is mostly doing the rounds on social media due to conspiracy theories involving the supposed intentional removal of Corbyn sympathisers from the electoral roll. What interests me more is not who is being removed but rather why anyone, other than clear fraudsters trying to register multiple times, are being removed at all.
In order to get by this vetting process and be able to vote in the contest as a £3 person, one had to tick a box on the internet saying that they subscribed to the aims and values of the Labour Party. But this poses an immediate philosophical question: if they subscribe to the aims and values of the Labour Party, and wish to vote in that party’s internal election, what’s stopping them from just becoming members of the party full stop? Is it the £3 quid price tag versus whatever the minimum cost of being a full blown Labour member is these days? Was the idea of the £3 deal just to get people too indigent or cheap to pay more for the privilege of voting in an internal election to take part?
The reason I ask these questions is to try and understand the basic logic of what the Ed Miliband reforms to the way Labour selects its leader are built upon. I thought at the time it was approved by special conference that the purpose of the new system was a sort of open primary type thing; like the way the Tories had selected some of their candidates for MP. The whole point in that instance was to have people vote in the primaries that were specifically not Tories; otherwise, why not just restrict it to party members and be done with it? In other words, the point of an open primary is that it’s open – you are by definition allowing people into the contest who wouldn’t otherwise take part.
If you want only those who subscribe to the values and aims of the Labour Party voting for who will be the leader of the party, that’s perfectly understandable. There’s a really easy way to ensure that happens: simply vet new memberships well and then only let members vote in the election. If you’re going to let non-members vote in something, then you have to open your mind to the fact that they are, by definition, non-members. Somehow, the Labour Party never considered that until very recently. And now they have to go through every £3 application and expel anyone who has ever tweeted positively about the Women’s Equality Party. Like I said at the top, I don’t get it.