calls for an independent inquiry grow

  • Post last modified:March 27, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

The Labour Party has been plunged into crisis after a bombshell report alleged that the selection contests for the party’s MP candidates may have been systematically rigged by Keir Starmer backers. Starmer now faces calls for an independent investigation over the Labour selections scandal – looking into party practices, with a next general election looming.

Labour selections scandal: Anonyvoter rigged?

The concerns around the Labour selections scandal centre on the use of the controversial ‘Anonyvoter’ software used to run selection contests to decide the party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs). As the Telegraph first reported, members have concerns that the software has been manipulated to favour Starmer backers, citing major discrepancies between in-person and online tallies in numerous contests across the country.

For example, the Telegraph noted that:

In one selection, a moderate candidate won just 10 per cent of the in-person vote but 62 per cent of the Anonyvoter online vote, according to a breakdown shared by local party figures.

It wrote that, in particular:

Lawyers acting for Sam Tarry, the MP for Ilford South, have written to the party over claims that an online voting system has been used to disadvantage Left-wing candidates.

Mr Tarry, whose relationship with Labour’s deputy leader [Angela Rayner] ended last year, claims the Anonyvoter system was used to harm his unsuccessful attempt to be re-selected for the general election.

Tarry was, of course, also famously sacked from the shadow front bench by Starmer because he attended a picket line. Coincidence, then, that he’s been deselected? Possibly not.

Croydon East: nothing to see here?

This all comes amid a Labour selections scandal around the contest in Croydon East. Exposed by Inside Croydon, it follows on from party officials tampering with membership lists, leading to the suspension of the contest for months and a Scotland Yard investigation.

A Labour spokesman told the Telegraph:

We have full confidence in the integrity of both selection processes and the use of Anonyvoter.

However, the concerns extend to sitting MPs Tarry as well as Beth Winter. Both are members of the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group, and both have raised doubts over the role of Anonyvoter in selection contests which saw them denied a place as Labour candidates at the next election. They are demanding investigations.

The ‘stench of corruption’

The revelations prompted fury among party activists, with campaigners warning that “the stench of corruption hangs over Labour”. Campaigners and Labour MPs are calling for an independent, KC-led investigation into Labour’s selection practices, and for the suspension of the use of the Anonyvoter software across the party.

This isn’t the first time Labour’s selection processes have come under scrutiny. Starmer has been accused of overseeing “anti-democratic stitch-ups” after the widespread blocking of local left-wing candidates from selection contests, with dozens of local activists resigning in protest at the centralisation of power among party officials in Westminster.

The party was forced to revise its selections procedures last year following pressure from trade unions – however, this has had little effect, as many of the remaining selections have seen one-person shortlists imposed by the NEC.

Among a litany of broken promises, Starmer had pledged in 2020 to “end NEC imposition of candidates” in selections and let local members decide local candidates. With Labour polling over twenty points ahead of a Tory party in crisis, the scandal has the potential to impact the identity of dozens if not hundreds of the country’s next MPs.

Momentum taking action

Campaign group Momentum said:

These are scandalous revelations which require immediate, comprehensive and independent investigation.

Alongside widespread stitch-ups against popular local candidates, this report points to the systematic rigging of Parliamentary selections in favour of well-connected Starmerites. In an alarming affront to basic democratic principles, a small Westminster clique seems to be handpicking Labour’s next MPs, instead of local people.

It’s vital that the truth is established – and clearly no fair process could see the suspect interrogate himself. Accordingly, we need an independent, KC-led investigation into Labour’s selections and the replacement of Anonyvoter with an independent system such as Civica, to ensure the integrity of the party’s processes and confidence in their outcomes. The stench of corruption hangs over Labour – it cannot be left to fester.

So, Momentum is demanding:

  • An independent, KC-led investigation into these events, including forensic analysis of how selections with Anonyvoter have been conducted.
  • The suspension of the use of Anonyvoter at all levels of the Party including branch and constituency Labour Party elections.
  • For the Labour Party to use Civica Election Services, as for NEC and Leadership elections, in all future candidate selections.

It has organised a petition that people can sign – calling on Labour to act on its three demands. You can sign it here.

Labour selections scandal: confidence lost

Beth Winter MP said of the Labour selections scandal:

The ongoing controversy around Anonyvoter voting software understandably leads to a lack of trust and confidence in Labour Party procedures. Continued use of the software risks bringing the party into disrepute.

In order to restore some trust in the party, there must be an independent review of the use of Anonyvoter in internal selection campaigns, including the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon.

In addition, Labour should end its use of Anonyvoter and commission a trusted independent balloting administrator, whose ballots stand up to scrutiny, such as Civica (formerly Electoral Reform Services) – as the trades unions do – to conduct its internal ballots including parliamentary selections, in future.

Featured image via Momentum

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