LABOUR’S acting leader Harriet Harman has insisted that the integrity of the party’s leadership contest has not been compromised as it admitted that it had been forced to remove 56,000 voters from the ballot.
The figure emerged yesterday after Ms Harman convened a summit with the four leadership contenders – Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham.
She held the meeting amid growing fears that the contest is being skewed by members of other parties who have paid £3 to obtain a vote.
There have been concerns that the hard-left frontrunner Mr Corbyn is going to win because tens of thousands of Trotskyite and Tory infiltrators have signed up to vote in the belief that electing Mr Corbyn as leader would consign Labour to the political wilderness.
The latest figures show that 554,000 people can vote, but earlier this month the party said it had 610,000 registered to vote in the contest.
According to the party, all applications to take part in the ballot have now been “administratively processed” – checked against the electoral register.
Since the 610,000 figure was published on 11 August, some 15 per cent of applications were struck off because they were not on the electoral register. Checks that applicants share Labour’s “aims and values” are being carried out around the clock by 70 staff in Newcastle, more than 30 staff in London and more than 30 elsewhere in the UK.
Questionable cases are sent to a panel of elected members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) for a decision on whether they are eligible.
Of 3,502 votes considered by the panel, 3,138 have been ruled ineligible – including 1,972 registered supporters who paid £3 to join the vote.
Some 400 applicants were found to be Tory members or supporters, and 1,900 members or supporters of the Green Party.
The party said its deputy returning officer and independent legal adviser, John Sharpe, had given an opinion that the process was “robust” and would be compliant with the rules introduced in 2014.
Ms Harman said the discussions with the leadership contenders had been “useful” but “routine”.
She stressed that the right of those who were eligible to vote was being protected.
But she added that “those people who don’t support the aims and values of the Labour Party are not entitled to vote and we will continue the process of verification, of making sure that those who do not support our aims and values but are trying to vote – trying to cheat their way into the system – that they are identified and their vote is cancelled”.
“That will carry on right up until the last minute,” she said.
Ms Harman said she did not think any of the candidates were criticising her handling of the contest.
“No, they are not criticising the way I have handled it,” she said. “I think they are recognising that I am going about it with an absolute due diligence to implement the 2014 constitutional arrangements.”
Bookies’ favourite Mr Corbyn has called claims the race was being fixed by infiltrators “nonsense”.
He said: “There are a few Tory MPs, I understand, tried to register, got rejected. End of story.”
Mr Burnham, the shadow health secretary who was the early frontrunner, suggested there was a problem, but confirmed that he would not attempt to challenge the result in court even if he was narrowly defeated.
“I wouldn’t want to overstate this whole issue, but there is some evidence that Tories are signed up to vote,” he told an audience in Stevenage.
“I was in a meeting in Milton Keynes on Sunday when one stood up in the audience and said he had voted in our contest.
“It is for the party to decide. All we want to ensure is that they have been properly implemented and all the information the Labour Party has about these things has been properly used.”