THE leader of one of the country’s biggest trade unions yesterday hit back at Labour after being told his vote on the party leadership election had been blocked.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, said it was ‘extraordinary’ to be told he did not share Labour’s values. He registered to vote through his membership of another union, the GMB, and backed Jeremy Corbyn, only to be told by email that it would not count.
He said that he had voted precisely because he shared the ‘aims and values’ of Corbyn – a phrase Labour is using to ban thousands of people from taking part in the election. Serwotka said he had not been a member of any political party for 20 years, but decided to take part in the Labour leadership election because he agreed with Corbyn’s policies.
The PCS leader said: ‘It is extraordinary to be told you cannot vote because you don’t share Labour’s values, when no-one (from the party) has spoken to me. I voted precisely because I share the aims and values of Jeremy Corbyn on anti-austerity, equality, a fair society and strong trade unions. Those are the messages I wanted to positively vote for. I have thought for some time we need a new approach to politics in Britain rather than the same old, same old, and that is what Jeremy Corbyn is offering.’
Serwotka said he hoped people would not be deflected from any attempt to destabilise the Labour leadership election process, and if anything, should be more determined to vote. Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) assistant general secretary Steve Hedley, speaking in a personal capacity, told News Line: ‘It’s a disgrace. When this leadership election was announced Harriet Harman said she wanted ex-Tories and others to vote.
‘Mark Serwotka has not been a member of any party for years, yet he’s been denied a vote. It’s unbelievable. The New Labourites are running scared, they don’t want any socialists in the party.’
FBU Executive Council member for London, Ian Leahair told News Line: ‘In July of this year I applied to be a full (unaffiliated) member of the Labour party, however at the beginning of the next month I was surprised to receive an email from the Labour party rejecting my application on the basis that I did not support the aims and views of the Labour party, or that I am a member of another organisation opposed to Labour.’
Acting leader Harriet Harman has insisted there will be no doubt about the ‘integrity’ of the Labour leadership contest following Labour reports that less than 1% of new supporters, around 3,100 people, have been blocked as infiltrators. However, under new party rules introduced last year, more than 160,000 people signed up to vote in the final days before the registration deadline.
The party initially said this brought the total size of the leadership electorate to 610,000. But that has now been revised down to 553,954 – a fall of almost 60,000 people, a lot more than the 3,100 that are said to have been purged.