Vote has ‘opened up politics’

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham
Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham

LABOUR leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has defended the party’s voting system after a former borough MP suggested changes were needed.

Sir Ian McCartney – the ex-MP for Makerfield – last week said the new system “will be looked at again” although the time for criticism had passed.

But Mr Burnham, MP for Leigh, said the reformed voting process brought in under Ed Miliband was having the desired effect.

He said: “The idea was to open up politics and that’s exactly what it’s done, so you can’t complain once the change has the effect you wanted to have. So, this is not the time to cry foul on the rules.

“The process has engaged a lot of people. The other political parties couldn’t manage anything like that number.

“Politics has become more and more remote from people in recent years. People do feel a sense of disengagement. This contest could mark a change.”

The party voting process was changed to reduce the influence of trade unions with new members permitted to vote if they pledge allegiance to Labour values and pay £3.

Party insiders have voiced fears the system is being exploited by entryists; opponents signing up to the party to sabotage the vote.

MPs have been asked to check lists of new members to weed out bogus supporters with concerns over left-leaning non-Labour supporters signing up to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Burnham added: “Some have signed up with negative intentions and they have been weeded out, and I would hope that they will continue to be weeded out.

“There are people who don’t have the best interests of Labour at heart who have tried to influence this campaign.

“I think that is pretty appalling behaviour on their part, particularly Tory MPs and Tory-leaning journalists.

“But the processes are there. The party is going through an extensive process of checking.”

The deadline for signing up to the party in time for the election has passed and ballot papers have now been sent out. The closing date for votes is September 10, with the result announced two days later.

Last week Sir Ian McCartney told the Evening Post that concerns about the voting system should have been voiced it was brought in and urged the party to “get through” the current process.

He said: “This system was put in place without enough consultation with people on the ground and the previous leader left hours after the general election result with little time for us to get organised.

“I’m being a pragmatist about this, we need to get through the election and start taking this government to task.”

Adding: “It is wrong to think everyone signing up is going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I will put my mortgage on a majority of those signing up in the North West being Andy Burnham supporters. I have no doubt the voting process will be looked at again, this is the first time we’ve used it and there have been problems.”