UK Politics

Ed Miliband 'should apologise for ridiculous leadership rules'

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, deputy leader Harriet Harman, shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ed Miliband persuaded Labour to change the rules last year

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband is facing calls to apologise for the "disastrous" voting system being used to elect his successor.

Mr Miliband changed the system under which he was elected to "one member one vote" and allowed the public to take part for a £3 fee.

The move was overwhelmingly backed by a special Labour conference last year.

But backbench Labour MPs Simon Danczuk and Graham Stringer said the new system was too open to abuse.

Mr Miliband, who is on holiday in Australia, has opted not to comment on the leadership election.

'Laughing stock'

Mr Stringer said he had left an "unworkable" system under which the party cannot know whether new supporters are members of other political parties who are joining to create mischief.

The veteran Labour backbencher believes the party will be seen as a "laughing stock" by Conservatives and left-wingers taking part in the ballot.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Labour supporters can vote by post or online

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said Mr Miliband should "come out and apologise" for the "ridiculous leadership election rules".

He said the experiment in moving the party to the left under Ed Miliband failed and moving it further to the left in the future would not help.

"If you get something so badly wrong on a range of points it's right and proper you come out and say sorry," Mr Danczuk told BBC News.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "The Labour Party has a robust system to prevent fraudulent or malicious applications.

"All applications to join the Labour Party as a member, affiliate or supporter are verified and those who do not share Labour's aims and values will be denied a vote."

Union influence

Under the previous electoral college system union members, MPs and party members had one third of the vote each.

It was much criticised for giving too much influence to the trade unions and was changed last year, with union members now having to sign up as affiliated party members before being allowed to vote.

The new system has been hailed by the four candidates vying to be the next Labour leader for massively increasing the Labour Party's membership and support base.

At the general election Labour had just over 200,000 full members.

It now has 189,703 affiliated union members, 121,295 registered supporters and 299,755 full members, adding up to a total electorate of 610,753.

'Alice in Wonderland'

The party is currently attempting to vet all of the new applications to weed out mischief makers and non-Labour supporters - a mammoth task given there were 160,000 applications lodged with the party in the 24 hours before the deadline.

Neither Graham Stringer nor Simon Danczuk criticised Mr Miliband's decision to take a holiday but Mr Stringer said he should have stayed on as Labour leader until September's party conference to enable Labour to debate what went wrong at the general election.

Instead, he said the party had been left in an "Alice in Wonderland" situation where it will have "the sentence before the verdict".

Senior Labour backbencher and former minister Pat McFadden was among those who expressed concern at the time of the voting rule change.

He said he warned those behind the change that what was being proposed was not a simple "one member one vote" system and asked why that system of election wasn't being introduced instead.

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