21 Aug 2015

Labour leadership: Burnham camp makes infiltrators claim

Andy Burnham says too little is being done to root out infiltrators in the Labour party’s leadership election, with fears that “several thousand” Conservative supporters have signed up to vote.

Andy Burnham

The campaign chief for Mr Burnham, who is considered to be second place tin the Labour leadership race behind Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to Labour’s general secretary saying the party was allowing the issue of “entryism” to “drift, and potentially leave insufficient time for the party to act”.

“We are also concerned that given the party’s limited resources and the effort required to investigate applicants, this could result in the integrity of the contest being called into question, and the outcome subject to legal challenge,” the letter said.

A Labour spokesman said: “We hold regular meetings and calls with candidate teams to update them on the process and will continue to do so.

“The Labour Party has a robust system to prevent fraudulent or malicious applications. All applications to join the Labour Party as a member, affiliate or supporter are verified and those who are identified by our verification team as being candidates, members or supporters of another political party will be denied a vote.”

However, Labour supporters who joined the party to vote in the election complained on Thursday that they were being barred from voting in a “McCarthyite” purge. Labour began writing to people telling them they will not be allowed to vote because “we have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour party”.

The hashtag #labourpurge was tweeted around 35,000 times over a 24-hour period as Labour supporters – including a Have I Got News For You writer and the daughter of a Labour councillor – complained about being barred.

Mr Corbyn has vowed to issue a formal apology on behalf of Labour for the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war if he wins the party’s leadership race.

The anti-war campaigner said Labour, under Tony Blair, took the UK into the war in 2003 “on the basis of deception” and that the decision had cost labour “millions” of supporters.

“It is past time that Labour apologised to the British people for taking them into the Iraq war on the basis of deception and to the Iraqi people for the suffering we have helped cause,” Mr Corbyn said in a statement to the Guardian.

“Under our Labour, we will make this apology.”

He added: “It has also lost Labour the votes of millions of our natural supporters, who marched and protested against the war.

“We turned our backs on them and many of them have either withheld their votes from us or felt disillusioned, unenthusiastic and unmotivated.”

The announcmenet has prompted the creation of a new hashtag – #corbynapologies – to joke about what else the the leadership front-runner could apologise for.

On Friday Tony Blair’s former attorney general, Lord Morris of Aberavon, said the government should force the publication of the long-awaited Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

“My sympathy is entirely with the families,” said Lord Morris, who was Tony Blair’s chief legal advisor from 1997 to 1999. “They want closure, and instead they have suffered deplorable delays. It is a disgrace.

“It has done a gross disservice to the families that they have had to wait such a long time after the conclusion of the evidence sessions.”

Mr Corbyn has also suggested that British military interventions would be rarer if he had control of Labour due to the common practice of governments seeking parliamentary approval for military actions.

“Let us say we will never again unnecessarily put our troops under fire and our country’s standing in the world at risk,” he said.

“Let us make it clear that Labour will never make the same mistake again, will never flout the United Nations and international law.”

2003 Iraq war march

Above: 2003 march agains the Iraq war

Mr Corbyn has been under fire after a video clip from 2014 emerged in which he appeared to compare the United States to the so-called Islamic State group.

Asked about what could help the Iraqi military regain control of parts of Iraq, Mr Corbyn replied: “Yes they (Islamic State) are brutal, yes some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling.”

After the video emerged his spokeswoman said: “Jeremy Corbyn believes the violent ideology of Isis is a vicious, repugnant force that has to be stopped – where Jeremy Corbyn talks about the need for a political solution and compromise he means not with Isis but against Isis, working across the region and beyond to choke off supplies that help fund and arm them and working with neighbouring states in the region to come to common solutions.”