It’s hit Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and the New York Mets and now the Labour Party has become the victim of vote hijacking: people voting for an unlikely candidate for a joke, just because they can. The impeccably informed Stephen Bush reveals that:
‘”More than two thirds” of new recruits since the election are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, a finding mirrored by the leadership campaigns’ experience of phoning new members’
This won’t come as a surprise to the Tory supporters who have been busy joining Labour to vote for the unelectable Corbyn. In an attempt to copy the SNP’s membership surge, Labour is offering the chance to become a ‘registered supporter’ for £3 – which includes the right to vote in its leadership election. The idea is that when punters watch the debate (for example, BBC Sunday Politics is screening one this weekend) they can then sign up and choose their candidate. It’s a bit like voting for Eurovision or X-Factor, and only a little more expensive. But you can spot the flaw. This leaves the system wide open to abuse.
Just how much abuse remains unclear. But much as Tories like to joke about it, I doubt many are actually joining Labour. Others may; Owen Jones, for example, commands a loyal army of Twitter followers who may share his enthusiasm for Corbyn. At £3 they can go one better than signing a petition. The Corbyn momentum may become self-reinforcing. Like putting your religion as ‘Jedi’ on the census, or downloading Killing in the Name to stop the X-Factor getting the Christmas number one, this can be seen as the thing to do. All a bit of a laugh.
Oh, and how the Tories are laughing. We at The Spectator could purchase mass Labour Party membership for our subscribers, and including it in the price – without giving them a say in the matter. Labour couldn’t very well object to that, given how keen they are to support the trades unions using precisely this tactic.
On one level, all of this is richly comic. Labour should never sell its membership so cheaply; the SNP did – but made sure only Sturgeon’s name was on the leadership ballot paper. Corbyn started off at 100/1, now Ladbrokes has him at 5/1.
But on a serious note, Britain really would be the loser if Corbyn wins. If that happens, Labour really will go into meltdown – the question will not be whether it will win in 2020; it’s whether it will survive until 2020. Every government needs a strong, hungry and effective opposition – especially this government, which is prone to to alternate between complacency and panic.
Labour really is in crisis, and is midway through a leadership election that looks unlikely to resolve that crisis. My personal hope is that Corbyn loses badly, to someone who goes on to surprise everyone with his or her sense of purpose and direction.