If Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next Labour leader, there will be a lot of finger pointing at Ed Miliband. Today’s Sunday Times reports that 140,000 new members are projected to sign up to vote in the leadership contest — the equivalent of the entire Conservative party. According to the paper, many of these new activists are taking advantage of Miliband's voting reforms and come from hard-left groups. It's a fair assumption to say they are joining to back Corbyn for leader.
If this projection turns out to be true, it might explain Corbynmania, as well as raising the possibility that Corbyn might actually win. The MP for Bassetlaw John Mann has called upon Harriet Harman to halt on the leadership contest while the situation can be investigated:
‘It should be halted. It is becoming a farce with longstanding members . . . in danger of getting trumped by people who have opposed the Labour party and want to break it up, expressly want to break it up — some of it is the Militant Tendency types coming back in.’
This 140k number is made up of 52k new members who have joined Labour since the general election — putting the party’s total membership in the region of 256k. Assuming this trend continues until August 12, the deadline for registering, there would be 66k new full members. Plus, there are another 18k who have signed up as ‘registered supporters’ of Labour (including #ToriesforCorbyn), which is projected to reach 22k by the end of the contest.
Then there are 25k ‘affiliate members’ registered to vote via the trade union, with another 30k affiliate applications waiting to be processed. All in all, it projects an electorate of above 300,000 voters — an electorate that is radically different to the last leadership election and one that Miliband had a hand in creating. This is not just a result of the voting reforms -- which managed to successfully limit the unions influence with one member/one vote -- but also Miliband's efforts to shift the party to the left.
On the Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn did not appear concerned about the makeup of these new members, arguing that the influx is ‘converting the Labour party into much more of a social movement,’ not a return to the entryism of the 1980s:
‘The entryism I see is lots of young people who have hitherto not very excited by politics coming in for the first time and saying ‘yeah, we can have a discussion, we can talk about our debts and our housing problems.'
‘What it’s about is converting the Labour party into much more of a social movement and an awful lot of people have joined the party since the election – we’ve now got 250,000 members, probably 50,000 signed up as supporters. They all want to do something, they want to change society.’
Even Corbyn admits he might now be on track to become leader. When asked by Marr if he was making plans for his leadership, he said 'yes of course, I'm thinking ahead of what happens after September 12,' adding 'we're in this for real'. Labour HQ and the other leadership campaigns have become increasingly worried over the last few weeks about the makeup of the new members flowing into the party and how it would affect the contest. If these numbers stack up, it appears their worst nightmares have been confirmed.