West Norfolk Council leader accused of registering as Labour supporter for leadership election

Labour Event launch for Jo Rust ANL-151204-174437009
Labour Event launch for Jo Rust ANL-151204-174437009
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A leading Conservative member of West Norfolk Council has been accused of signing up as a Labour supporter in order to vote in its leadership contest.

Mr Beales was unavailable for comment when approached by the Lynn News yesterday.

Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130108124214

Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Councillors ENGANL00120130108124214

However, he appeared to admit that the document was genuine in a post on his Twitter account, responding to a comment from North West Norfolk Labour party secretary, Jo Rust.

It said: “Labour will effectively choose its next Leader via crowd sourcing. I am just one of the crowd - can’t see your problem.”

He had earlier stated on the social media platform that there was “no doubt” about his position.

But Mrs Rust claimed the action was dishonest and has requested that the application is struck off.

And she told Mr Beales: “I’ve lost any respect I might have had for you.”

Under current rules, anyone who registers as a Labour party member, affiliate or supporter can vote in the current leadership election.

But there have been calls in recent days for the contest to be halted amid fears that non-Labour supporters were signing up in a bid to influence the outcome in favour of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn.

One national newspaper has even published a step-by-step guide for readers to register in order to vote for Mr Corbyn, while others have claimed that members of other extreme left organisations are also seeking to take part.

Mrs Rust has already declared her support for Mr Corbyn’s leadership bid and is one of 27 defeated general election candidates to have signed an open letter backing him.

The letter said: “Labour did not lose because our manifesto was ‘too left-wing’. While there were many progressive measures in the manifesto, we failed to challenge the fundamental economic consensus on austerity.

“We have a chance to once again become a social movement. We believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate offering this vision.”

Another supporter of Mr Corbyn, the new Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, was guest speaker at the constituency party’s annual meeting last week.

Dr Deborah Holman was elected as the party’s new chairman at the meeting last Thursday evening.

And officials say they have welcomed many new, younger members to their ranks since May’s elections.

Dr Holman said: “I am looking forward to working with members to progress the values that we all share.

“The previous long-standing executive members did great work in keeping the local party going in difficult times and I want to record my thanks to them for all their hard work.

“Looking to the future, I want us to become more involved with our local communities in the way that we work, and to strive to promote the well-being and social inclusion of everyone in the constituency.”

Mrs Rust said the party had seen a “huge leap” in its membership since May.

She said many of the new recruits are under 26 and had been hit hard by government policies, adding: “No wonder they’re cross and want to make their voice heard.”

Two young members, 20-year-old borough council candidate Jessica Barnard and sixth form student Beth Anthony, 17, will head the party’s women’s and young members groups respectively, while others are also taking roles on other committees, including the party executive.

The party is also drawing up a development plan and aims to establish a permanent headquarters in the constituency.