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In Part 1 I revealed something about the company that Jeremy Corbyn keeps and his economic policies. In this Part 2, I'm going to look at how exactly someone like this can possibly be leading in the current party polls.



"Moron"
When nominations were opened, Corbyn was a complete outsider. To get on the ballot, he, like the other contenders, needed nominations from 35 other Labour MPs. He reached the threshold with minutes to spare only with the help of twelve MPs who were supporters of other candidates, but who wanted a more diverse pool of candidates. These twelve included Frank Field (perhaps the cleverest and most sensible of all Labour politicians).  Another, the former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, subsequently said she had been a "moron" for doing this. At this point, nobody took his candidacy seriously, because in all his years as an MP nobody had ever really taken him seriously apart from a handful of fringe extremists.

The fringe extremists were a big problem for Labour back in the 1980s when they attempted to take over the party. Neil Kinnock spent most of his time as Labour leader fighting a long battle to purge the Labour Party of members who were communists in all but name. Few survived the purges into the 21st century (but Corbyn was one of them). Most of them slunk away to a succession of fringe parties with names like 'Real Labour' or 'Socialist Labour' or 'Left Unity', or openly communist parties. Others gathered to the Green Party as it moved from mostly being concerned with environmental issues to being essentially just another far left party (and were instrumental in that move). Some quietly schemed to seize control of the trade unions that largely fund the party (more on those later). There were few enough of them left in the Labour Party proper to be able to influence party policy or leadership elections. And they weren't able to stand in the way of Tony Blair (from the modernising wing of the party) becoming party leader and winning three landslide general elections.


Electoral rules and unintended consequences
When Labour lost the 2010 General Election and Gordon Brown resigned as party leader, the election to replace him was expected to be a contest between Brown's economic adviser Ed Balls and former Foreign Secretary David Milliband. Miliband's younger brother Ed also ran. The vote was based on a complicated system whereby MPs' and MEPs' votes made up a third of the total, individual party members' votes another third and members of trade unions another third. Union leaders had no qualms about sending promotional literature for their choice of candidate in the same envelope as their members' voting forms. Party members voted for David Milliband. MPs and MEPs voted for David Milliband. But because of the influence of certain union leaders, the more left-wing Ed Milliband won the election and became party leader.

A seemingly very significant proportion of the party realised fairly quickly that the party had elected the wrong Milliband. And that obviously the reason why was because the union leaders still wielded too much power in leadership elections. (As recently as John Smith's election as leader in 1993, it was worse - the union leaders used to control all of the votes of their members in a 'block vote'.) So, the rules were changed last year.

This year's leadership election is very different. The rules this year give each party member, each member of an affiliated organisation (like trade unions) and each 'registered supporter' one vote. That's it. Which sounds fair enough. But this is where the unintended consequences come in. After Labour's crushing defeat in May's general election, they had about 200,000 party members. Now, just three months later, they have 610,000 people eligible to vote. That's a surprising surge of support for a party coming out of an abysmal election performance. So who are all these new members?


Mario Balotelli and #ToriesForCorbyn
Some of them are undoutedly people who voted Labour in the general election and who would like a say in the future direction of the party. To do this involves filling in a simple online form and paying just £3.

The clever among you may have spotted the flaw in Labour's new leadership election process...

£3.

Very early on in the campaign, some columnist or blogger (Toby Young I think) pointed out that compared to the amounts normally spent on general election campaigning by the major parties, it really wouldn't cost much for the Conservatives to encourage a lot of people to sign up and vote for a joke candidate who would do terribly in the next general election. And so was born #ToriesForCorbyn.

I mention Mario Balotelli at this point, because #ToriesForCorbyn reminds me of the Liverpool FC player of the season award for last season. Liverpool (showing an amusing innocence) opened up voting for their player of the season award to ordinary fans on their website. Only they made no attempt to stop supporters of other clubs from voting. Consequently, Arsenal and Manchester United fans orchestrated a Twitter campaign to get people to vote for Italian striker Mario Balotelli, widely seen by Liverpool fans not only as a failure at Liverpool but also as a disruptive influence and one of the key reasons for the team's poor performance that season. #ToriesForCorbyn is essentially the same idea.

But while some of those people paying over their £3 are #ToriesForCorbyn, I really don't think that many are. If I had to make a guess, I think a lot are people who at least sympathise with those extreme left groups.

Now in theory, the rules don't allow people to sign up if they are actually supporters of other parties or unsympathetic to the aims of the Labour Party. The right wing columnist Toby Young's application was thrown out because he answered the question "Why did you sign up to become a registered supporter?" with "To consign Labour to electoral oblivion". More recently 260 applications for people who actually stood in the general election as candidates for far left parties ranging from the Greens through the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition to Left Unity were discovered and thrown out. A couple of minor celebrities with far-left leanings have also been blocked because they were known to be supporters of those same far left parties. In truth though, vetting 410,000 applications must really stretch a party with about 250 full-time employees.




In Part 3, I'll look at why Corbyn supporters believe him to be a sensible choice to lead the party and the country.







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