There’s no denying the remarkable scale of the surge in membership sparked by the challenge to Jeremy Corbyn. Reportedly, 183,000 people have paid £25 to apply for a vote in the Labour leadership contest – a wave of new members larger than the entire Conservative Party.
That doesn’t mean they’re all Labour members yet, though. Coughing up the cash only guarantees an application for membership – they can still be denied the coveted card if vetting finds them to be unacceptable for some reason. If they’re already a member of another party, or an extremist, or a racist, for example, they are meant to be turned down.
This vetting process was quite troublesome last year, when over 100,000 people registered under the much-regretted £3 supporter scheme. That proved to be an almost impossible number for Labour HQ to vet successfully, as the staff responsible struggled to trawl through them to identify Tories, assorted Trotskyists, Greens, people not on the electoral register etc
So this time, with almost double the number to vet, and Labour HQ much depleted, how are they going to manage it? Given that the surge in numbers is widely thought to be a good sign for Corbyn’s chances, one also has to wonder if the Labour leader will really be pressing hard to insist that all vetting is as tough and tight as possible.
George Eaton of the New Statesman reports that his sources in the Opposition expect that over 40,000 of these new applicants could be rejected in the vetting process. If that does happen, shouldn’t Labour publish a breakdown of the reasons for their rejection, listing how many were bogus names, or Tories or members of far left parties. That would show whether the entryism problem the Corbynites pooh-pooh really is a myth or not.