Union leaders join calls for Labour to abandon Anonyvoter

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Union leaders join calls for Labour to abandon Anonyvoter - Inside Croydon

LABOUR SELECTION SCANDAL: More allegations of rigged votes in dodgy Labour candidate selections trace the affair straight back to Croydon and the deal done between a ‘Newman Numpty’ councillor and party General Secretary David Evans, reports STEVEN DOWNES

Momentum, the Labour members’ group, is demanding the immediate suspension of the use of online voting tool Anonyvoter in party selections until its use has been subjected to a thorough, independent investigation.

This has been followed today by a letter from the leaders of four big trades unions to David Evans, the General Secretary of the Labour Party, making similar demands.

The moves follow Inside Croydon‘s exclusive report that the Metropolitan Police’s cyber crime unit is investigating the conduct of the Croydon East selection for fraud, where in November last year, at least 30 “e-votes” were cast without the members’ knowledge.

The iC report was followed up by most national daily newspapers and this week’s edition of Private Eye magazine.

Last week, Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South, issued a threat of legal action against his own party in an effort to reveal the Anonyvoter records for the re-selection race he lost in October 2022. Tarry, a prominent figure from the left of the party, is among those who have claimed that under party leader Keir Starmer and his General Secretary, Evans, Anonyvoter has been used to favour right-wing candidates.

Inside Croydon first reported on Labour’s use of Anonyvoter three years ago. The software is provided to the Labour Party by a Croydon-based company, Henson IT Services Ltd, run by husband and wife couple Mark and Maddie Henson.

Maddie Henson has been a Labour councillor in Addiscombe East since 2014, and is among the “Newman’s Numpties” who bankrupted the borough.

Mark Henson is the interim treasurer for the newly formed Croydon East Constituency Labour Party, which is now subject to a police investigation.

The Hensons are firmly part of the Blairite/Starmerite faction that controls Croydon Labour, and which in the past included discredited council leader Tony Newman, Paul Scott and Alison Butler. All worked closely with Evans on the 2014 local election campaign, when Evans was running a consultancy business based in Croydon, The Campaign Company.

Although there are other well-tested and reliable online voting systems available, used by most other political parties and trades unions, in 2021, Evans did a deal with Henson IT Services Ltd to use Anonyvoter in the Labour Party. There was no competitive tendering process.

“The process was Labour’s business and was the party’s ‘normal procurement’,” Maddie Henson said at the time.

“We had conversations, we proposed a contract and they accepted it, that’s how it works,” Henson said.

Earlier this month, Maddie Henson was “selected” as Labour’s candidate in the GLA elections for the Croydon and Sutton constituency. She was chosen based entirely on Anonyvoter voting. The Labour Party has refused to publish the vote count.

Labour, and the Hensons, have appeared to be very touchy about the attention being received by Anonyvoter, to the point of issuing denials against claims that have never been made.

Two weeks ago, before the Metropolitan Police confirmed its Croydon East investigation, LabourList, the lapdog-loyal website, published a report which maintained that “the Labour Party ‘won’t be changing the platform for selections’.”

And Labour List quoted “a spokesperson for Anonyvoter” – so Maddie, or maybe Mark – as stating, “the Croydon East data breach is entirely unconnected to Anonyvoter”.

The anonymous Anonyvoter spokesperson maintained that the Croydon East clusterfuck was “instead being about Labour’s own membership data system”. As if that made it all alright.

The anonymous Anonyvoter spokesperson said, “We have regular checks on the integrity of our systems and databases and have never found anything to suggest that our security has ever been compromised.”

Inside Croydon’s sources, and the Labour Party itself, have, to some extent, confirmed that this might be the case, with manual manipulation of the CLP’s membership lists getting email addresses changed so that votes might be used online without authorisation.

But Henson could be among the last Labour candidates to be selected using Anonyvoter if the leaders of four of the country’s most powerful trades unions have a say.

The Torygraph, which has picked up on the story with undisguised glee, this morning reported that the union leaders’ letter to Evans represents “a significant escalation of the row”.

The signatories are train drivers’ union ASLEF’s Mick Whelan, Dave Ward, of the Communication Workers Union, Maryam Eslamdoust of TSSA and Matt Wrack, of the Fire Brigades Union. All four unions are Labour Party affiliates. Whelan is also chairman of the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation.

The letter raised questions over how Anonyvoter is open to abuse.

Research by Inside Croydon journalists has accessed the “back end” of the Anonyvoter system and discovered that local party administrators are able to identify which members have voted and, therefore, and just as importantly, those who have not voted.

Anonyvoter admins – often local branch secretaries – even have the ability to vote on someone’s behalf by generating a code, without the individual member ever being any the wiser.

Today’s union leaders’ letter read: “What assurances are there around the accuracy and integrity of the data which is uploaded to the Anonyvoter system? Are there any procedures guiding the handling of this data? Please share these procedures with us.

“What access is given to candidates in a selection to verify the accuracy of Anonyvoter voting, so they can be assured of the fairness of any result, similar to the extensive verification processes for postal and in-person voting?

“What access to the Anonyvoter system is given to candidates, similar to that of tellers during an in-person hustings, to ensure the integrity of the result? Please share any procedures covering this with us.

“What complaints have there been about unfair practices related to Anonyvoter during selections and how have these been dealt with by the party?

“Can you confirm that selections have always been paused to ensure full investigations and no further incidents?

“If you are not able to answer these questions, as the General Secretary of the Labour Party, we would have grave doubts about the continuing use of Anonyvoter.

“In that case, we would seek both a moratorium on its use until proper controls are in place, and a speedy and transparent resolution to all outstanding complaints.”

Momentum had already begun a campaign, and petition, for the suspension of the use of Anonyvoter until these mounting and serious issues can be satisfactorily resolved.

Martin Abrams, a councillor in Streatham, fronted a hard-hitting video appeal.

“Is Labour rigging its parliamentary selections?” said Abrams (who has been suspended by the Labour Party for having had the temerity to suggest that there is an immediate need for a ceasefire in Gaza).

“That’s what a bombshell new report suggests. For over a year, a scandal has been brewing, as Starmer’s clique has blocked popular local left-wingers from standing to be MPs all over the country.

“Local members have been denied a free and fair choice.

“But now it seems that the Labour machine may have been outright manipulating votes, ensuring the selection of a chosen few leadership favourites.”

Abrams continued: “There are major issues with how the Anonyvoter system is being used for parliamentary selections that leave it ripe for abuse.”

And he outlined a series of questionable elements to the Anonyvoter system, including the ability to re-issue votes to new emails and phone numbers, which admins can change manually.

Abrams also suggests that Anonyvoter allows votes to “be added at any time, even after the advertised end of the poll”.

He said: “Why does this matter? Well if true, it means that Labour’s next MPs are being selected not by local people, but by a Westminster clique.

“It means that Labour is no longer functioning as a democratic party, but rather as a fiefdom of political elites.

“And under First-Past-the-Post, it means that basic pillars of British democracy have been undermined.”

Momentum’s petition can be found by clicking here

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