Those Labour Purge Missing Ballot Papers – the real numbers

Yesterday I posted about the “Labour Purge” and the suspensions that had been carried out by the NEC. The (relatively) very low figures surprised me and they surprised a lot of other people. Two quite reasonable questions were asked by a few people.

First, my data source was questioned. So I will restate my figures came from Labour Party NEC member Christine Shawcroft. She is resolutely on the left of the party and has been so for many years. She was on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate in the recent NEC elections. The CLGA were very clearly pro-Corbyn, and Christine continues to be a vocal supporter of Corbyn. Christine has no motivation whatsoever to publish fake figures to downplay the number of suspensions. It simply is not reasonable to seek to discredit these figures because of her political motivation.

The second question that was raised was “what about the people who had missing ballot papers?” That is a very good question and I will turn to that now.

In a Facebook post here Christine says “The figures show that 5,000 people asked for replacement ballots (ie they hadn’t got the first one for some reason).” According to a post on Richard Burgon’s Facebook page there were 654,006 ballot papers distributed. So the 5,000 ballot papers amounts to 0.8 per cent of all papers issued. And remember nearly all of these people will have had a new paper reissued.

So, 3,963 people (or 0.6 per cent of the selectorate) were suspended and  5,000 people (or 0.8 per cent of the selectorate) did not get a ballot paper initially. Has there been a deliberate and systematic purge by the NEC that denied masses of Corbyn supporters their vote? I’d suggest the evidence says no because:

  1. Of the 3,963 people (or 0.6 per cent of the selectorate) were suspended we know many of them will have been for valid reasons. You only have to look at the pro-Corbyn Labour Abuse and anti-Corbyn Gentler Politics twitter accounts to see the reports of abuse. Abusive behaviour is definitely happening. Also some people have been found to be members of other parties. So the number of “wrong” suspensions is going to be fewer than 3,963.
  2. Some of the people being suspended will invariably have been Smith supporters.
  3. Of the 5,000 people who reported that they had not got a ballot paper nearly all will have been reissued with a new ballot. Of course, some may not have received the replacement ballot paper, but the actual numbers who, in the end, did not get a ballot paper is much, much less than 5,000.
  4. Some of the people not getting their ballot papers will invariably have been Smith supporters
  5. Even if you make the highly implausible suggestion that all suspensions were “deliberate and wrong suspensions of Corbyn supporters” and all 5,000 missing ballot papers never got replaced and they were all “deliberate exclusions of Corbyn supporters” it amounts to 8,963 people or 1.4 per cent of the selectorate. It will have had negligible impact on the result.

Given the huge amount of outrage on social media about the NEC’s wilful and deliberate exclusion of Corbyn supporters through suspensions and missing ballot papers I was genuinely surprised by these figures, and maybe you are too. But if you are want to dispute them you either need to provide your own figures (and data source) or explain why an undoubted prominent Corbyn supporter would supply the wrong figures. If you answer either of these two questions then please do comment as if my conclusions are wrong I’m happy to be corrected.

Although I’m not really a fan of pie charts (see here for why) I think I pie chart illustrates my point well (I will admit they do have their  very occasionally – usually when there are only two or three categories).



2 thoughts on “Those Labour Purge Missing Ballot Papers – the real numbers

  1. Hi, interesting article. I have to say I’ve not followed this closely but unsurprised that the total number is not that high. It always seemed likely that the vast majority of those who could claim to be disenfranchised by this process were those that did not meet the membership cut-off date and those supporters who had paid £3 last time, but did not feel able to pay £25 this time.

    That said, there seems to be one very problematic and unstated assumption in this piece. You seem to assume that 100% of those who did not receive ballot papers will have requested a replacement. That seems to me extremely unlikely and therefore the statement “the actual numbers who, in the end, did not get a ballot paper is much, much less than 5,000” seems to me to not be factually supported (that isn’t to say it is not true just that it rests on a large assumption which may or may not be close to the truth).


    • I take your point about the missing ballot papers but if someone did not get a ballot paper any would they not ask for a replacement. The party can only try to correct an error if they are told about it.

      As for your wider points if I get time I will take a look at it.


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