In Brief

Rancour in Labour leadership race

Party leadership accused of re-writing rules to save favoured candidate

Labour’s leadership race has descended into acrimony amid allegations Jeremy Corbyn’s allies manipulated the rules of the contest to rescue their favoured candidate.

The Independent reveals that Rebecca Long-Bailey, who has been anointed by the party’s hard-left, was investigated after breaching a ban on promoting campaigns to members using party data, “an offence some Labour MPs viewed as potentially serious enough for her to be thrown out of the contest altogether”, says the news site.

Despite triggering widespread anger among supporters of rival campaigns, party officials including leading figures in the Unite union which backs the shadow business secretary, decided it was “reasonable” for candidates to contact their own local members.

“It’s clear the Labour Party is making it up as it goes along and deliberately engineering the rules in favour of a certain candidate,” said MP Wes Streeting.

Long-Bailey is already able to use the 40,000-strong membership list of the left-wing group Momentum, which is supporting her. In contrast, the other candidates – Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry – will have no access to membership data until voting begins in mid-February.

Allies of Jeremy Corbyn have also been accused of trying to cement their power at the top of the party after they announced plans to appoint new staff to senior posts before the next leader is elected.

The move by Labour headquarters, under the control of general secretary Jennie Formby, “has prompted suspicion that Corbyn’s supporters are trying to install their own people in key roles made vacant by departing staff, to ensure some continuity once Corbyn leaves in April, rather than letting a new leader fill the posts once in office”, says The Guardian.

The Sun on Sunday has reported Long-Bailey faces an “exodus” of moderate MPs if she does triumph in the leadership contest in April.

One moderate Labour MP told the paper: “I will walk out of the party. I will leave, it will be the end of the party, it will be over.”

“We all may have our favoured candidate but in reality it has to be ‘Anyone But Becky’ for the party to survive,” they added.

Dismissing claims by Andrew Marr Unite had “stitched-up” the race to succeed Corbyn, the union’s leader Len McClusky told Labour moderates they should quit the party now if they are not prepared to show loyalty to Long-Bailey as leader.

He also dismissed suggestions that Unite, Labour’s biggest backer, would have its influence reined in under a new leader, adding that those hoping for a change at the top were “deluding themselves”.

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