back to article Legal eagles accuse Labour of data law breach over party purge

The Labour Party's membership purge, which has seen it weed out 3,000 "infiltrators", could be in breach of the Data Protection Act, legal experts have warned. Labour has vetted new members by trawling social media sites for statements which make it clear they do not share its "aims and values", as well as through data …

  1. No Quarter

    If I am ever canvassed by Labour...

    I shall wave at them using not all of my fingers.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Re: If I am ever canvassed by Labour...

      The Labour Party. Now, that *is* a name from the past.

      You'd have thought the tories would start making decades-long plans seeing as the irritating 4 year election term has been abolished. Mind you, the realisation they are not accountable any more got off to a great start today with the appointment of the Noble "Lord" Hogg, for his lifelong dedicated service to Moat cleaners.

  2. Vimes

    ...We take our responsibilities under data protection very seriously...

    One guess as to who was in power when the home office was asking whether a certain company was 'comforted' by the advice they were handing out regarding an illegal trial of their system across the entire country.

    It certainly wasn't the tories.

    'very seriously'... complete and utter bollocks...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "One guess as to who was in power when the home office was asking..."

      The Civil Service of course.

      Politicians mostly serve to distract from those in power, not to wield it themselves.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Civil Servants

        Too much reliance on old TV series and Politicians excuses here. Civil Servants in the main only do what the ploiticians tell them to do - which is why there are so many "errors" as what they are told to do is pants as it usually ignores any advice which does not support the politiucal point being made. Look up Churchills (supposedly) definition of a Political Fact.

  3. SolidSquid

    You have to wonder whether those accusations of "cheats" might be considered libelous, consindering at least a few of the people who were included were outspoken Labour supporters and might see their reputation damaged if they were branded as "infiltrators"

    Also, didn't Labour lose a lot of supporters to the Greens as they moved further to the right? Why is it any surprise that a decent chunk of the Greens would be interested in Labour again if they seemed to be moving back in the direction those people supported before leaving?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      didn't Labour lose a lot of supporters to the Greens as they moved further to the right?

      By whose definition? Millipede was branded Red Ed for his big state and interventionist plans and whilst nothing like as traditional old wolde commie as Corbyn, he was well to the left of NuLabour.

      Mind you, anybody who defected to the Greens will be dead by 11.00am tomorrow, having choked to death on their muesli as they read the Graun's being-scribed-as-I-write coverage of the Feed in Tariff cuts proposed by DECC today. Personally I'm rather looking forward to reading the apoplectic response of the tree huggers and financially vested interests.

      Does George Monbiot have any hair that he can pull out?

      1. Richard Wharram


        Are they curbing ROCs too?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ROCs?

          Well they'll be progressively replaced by CfDs for new installations (which I suspect you know). There's plans in the consultation to control future CfD costs because the whole subsidy boondoggle is out of control, and will have added a cumulative £40bn to consumer's energy bills by 2021 (not including probably another £10-20bn of networks costs related to the renewables).

          But it's up on the DECC website, have a gander

  4. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

    ambulance chaser

  5. Blank-Reg

    "We take our responsibilities under data protection very seriously"

    Shame you bunch of feckers didn't have that sentiment when you were busy plotting ID cards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shame you bunch of feckers didn't have that sentiment when you were busy plotting ID cards.

      Ah, but that was IMHO because of another, higher level priority: extracting money from the tax payer as quickly as they could get away with it.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Meanwhile the Tories are still hoovering up your medical records ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Meanwhile the Tories are still hoovering up your medical records ...

        .. which again started with New Labour, but I agree, they ought to spike that project until they have an idea how to protect people from abuse of that data.

  6. msknight

    Doesn't surprise me one bit

    A few years ago for a previous leadership campaign, I received text messages on my mobile.

    I called up party HQ to get my detailed erased, to be told that it wasn't really possible as a copy of the database had been given to each of the leadership contenders.

    They could take my details from the central database, but forget about stripping me off the other copies. That, I'm sure, is also something that is against the rules; not that anyone got hauled over the coals for it.

    One law for us, another for them. Labour make me laugh sometimes; they really do. And then cry ... and then break down and become a nervous wreck.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Doesn't surprise me one bit

      This lack of regard towards privacy and rights is common practice in the Labour party it seems, with many of them behaving as if rules apply to everybody except themselves.

      God forbid that the ICO actually do something about how the political parties - not just Labour - handle personal details.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't surprise me one bit

      " Labour make me laugh sometimes; they really do. And then cry ... and then break down and become a nervous wreck."

      The local Labour councillor was asking for information on local road problems. I sent in a report to their web page for constituents - saying I didn't want any email-shots from them etc.

      It was a surprise to me when the County Council Highways Dept sent me an email confirming receipt of "my report" on a road fault. The Labour councillor had filled in a form on the Highways Department web site using my name, address, and email - with an edited version of my report. To me that is forgery.

      I raised several issues through my Labour MP's web site - particularly on privacy legislation. It then took months of complaining, including to their central office, to get them to remove three of my throwaway email addresses from their "supporters" mailing list.

      The best breach was the snailmail answer to one of these issues. It didn't really address the points I had raised - it was just a copy of a reply sent to another constituent on a vaguely similar matter. They had used a black marker pen to redact the other person's details on the copy. If you angled the paper - then their redacted name and address details reflected the light and were easily readable.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Doesn't surprise me one bit

      "One law for us, another for them"

      If you were a member of their "club" then I don't think they have to stop unless you cancel your membership. If you weren't a member then I'd say they were probably in breach of something or other.

      1. Vimes

        Re: Doesn't surprise me one bit

        If you were a member of their "club" then I don't think they have to stop unless you cancel your membership.

        Not quite true. Merely being a member doesn't give them consent to do whatever they want, and consent can't be implied by merely being a member. In fact I seem to recall the ICO explicitly saying that you can't link consent to a service or membership of an organisation.

        And with regards to the current mess withing the labour party, these aren't even fully fledged members we're talking about - they're 'registered supporters'.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

    May not be clever, but it is quite funny.

    1. Thomas Whipp

      Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

      Its an odd position, surely the whole point of allowing people to "affiliate" for the purpose of the contest is to add in the views which are non-core in order to broaden party appeal - its not as if the Labour party itself is particularly coherent at the moment so I do wonder what set of views are being used as a filter. It just seems so utterly logically inconsistent

    2. Mark 85

      Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

      Not living in your land, nor knowing the whole tale except for what's in the articles here, were they really from other parties? Or were they people who didn't toe the party line 100% and questioned things? My impression is it's the latter...

      <sarc>Doesn't everyone love a good purge of the those who don't believe and spout the party line 100%? </sarc>

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

        @Mark 85

        >were they really from other parties? Or were they people who didn't toe the party line 100% and questioned things?

        We don't know and will probably never know for sure. I'm aware of one prominent columnist who makes appearances for another party, who has received voting papers...

        However, in May 2015 the party had 194,000 members, since then they have added: 76,000+ new members plus 70,000+ voters who paid their £3 but aren't party members. Many of these, the media and other rumour mills, are saying will vote for Jeremy Corbyn; someone many in Labour are very worried (verging on paranoia) about the possibility of him winning as it could make the party unelectable, and you can begin to see why some are trying to push back against what could be a tidal wave. So far they have refused 3,000 of the new members, so the purge is unlikely to impact the final result.

        1. Mark 85

          Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

          Thanks Roland. That clarifies things. I've seen this in US where various parties will purge members who argue against something the party is pushing, but not often enough. Seems the fear of being "partyless" keeps most people's mouths shut.

        2. JohnMurray

          Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

          Let's be fair here.

          Under any of the four they are unelectable.

          Labour do not kiss the right arses.

          An almost total capture of the "free" press and hence control of publicity means the con party has it made.

          Short of Cameroon being revealed, somehow, as being a life-long practising paedophile, the conservatives cannot lose an election. And even if he is.......

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

            Those 4 well the only one who is not poison is not very good. They are better off with their caretaker leader.

            Blair croney

            Mrs Balls

            Old Commy

            The other one.


            As to other parties, I think some recent MPs were PPCs chosen from open selections, where ANYONE in the constituency could choose that parties PPC. I think this includes the Lady Doctor from South Devon.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: “is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system”

      Harriet Harpie sounds just like a peeved school mistress.

      Not surprising really when most politicians treat their constituents like children.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously NAL etc., but presumably if you have tweeted that you support the Greens then "data protection" does not apply to them using that tweet to decide you cannot vote.

    There seems to be two threads to the argument getting conflated: the dodgy vetting process and the rule that says you cannot vote if you support another party. That second point is an existing party rule and there is no appeal.

    1. Blank-Reg

      In that case, I posit that a certain Corbyn be disqualified for positively supporting Galloway and his 'respect' [sic] party

      1. Yugguy

        Careful now - don't insult Galloway, even tangentially. He's fucking great apparantly.

        1. auburnman

          Re: Galloway

          He gave one of the finest speeches I've ever seen back in the days of the Independence debate - it went a little something like:


          *Paraphrasing, but honestly not by much. Yes, he really did bring up Hitler for some unfathomable reason.

    2. The Mole

      "then "data protection" does not apply to them using that tweet to decide you cannot vote."

      The information is in the public domain yes, but the argument is that by copying the tweet into their own database, by associating that tweet with a person applying for membership, and then by using that tweet to determine whether the application should succeed then they are storing and processing sensitive personal information without informed explicit concent.

      The fact it was originally public information (probably) becomes irrelevant as soon as they start to process it for other purposes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Some of their information was apparently deduced from how people answered canvassers' questions on the doorstep in previous election campaigns.

        In the old days the possible intention of a voter was deduced by combining the last four canvassing results. The information was then used on election days to prompt regular reminders to probable supporters who apparently hadn't yet voted.

        The thing about canvassers' reports is that the voter is not making their intention public - and in some cases they have not actually said who they would vote for. The voter's views on certain issues were taken as indicating their likely party allegiance.

      2. The Real SteveP

        "The fact it was originally public information (probably) becomes irrelevant as soon as they start to process it for other purposes."

        No it doesn't. Once public, always public...

        1. Vimes

          This is going to be a but long-winded so bear with me, but in essence whether the data is public or not would appear to be irrelevant (as always IANAL)

          The second data protection principle states that:

          Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless –

          (a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and

          (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.

          Since it's public we can assume only (a) will apply here (personal data doesn't stop being personal data just by being published). Now on to schedule 2 of the DPA, which states:

          1 The data subject has given his consent to the processing.

          2 The processing is necessary—

          (a)for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party, or

          (b)for the taking of steps at the request of the data subject with a view to entering into a contract.

          3 The processing is necessary for compliance with any legal obligation to which the data controller is subject, other than an obligation imposed by contract.

          4 The processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject.

          5 The processing is necessary—

          (a)for the administration of justice,

          [F1(aa)for the exercise of any functions of either House of Parliament,]

          (b)for the exercise of any functions conferred on any person by or under any enactment,

          (c)for the exercise of any functions of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department, or

          (d)for the exercise of any other functions of a public nature exercised in the public interest by any person.

          None of which appears to apply to what the Labour party have been doing (unless they truly think that anything is acceptable in the name of politics, and that public interest is the same as party political interest - or that they're confusing 'data subject' with themselves when it comes to 'vital interests'). And of course given previous behaviour by the likes of the Labour party in other cases I would also ask whether adherence to the 7th and 8th principles have been observed to in this case.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Hiding behind parliamentry priviledge has its effects, perhaps?

            1. Vimes

              Hiding behind parliamentry priviledge

              Presumably this only applies to parliamentary proceedings themselves, and even then only to the MPs taking part in said proceeedings?

          2. Ben Liddicott

            Sensitive personal data - needs both schedule 2 and schedule 3 reason.

            The problem is not that they are breaking the DPA it's that they are a bunch of dishonest cheats who would rig the election bowling club secretary.

            Here's the schedule 2 reason which applies. It's number 6 which you accidentally cut off:

            6 (1) The processing is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller...

            Now if they are cheating that's not a legitimate interest, but you have to prove that before you can prove they've broken the act.

            And here's the schedule 3 reason:

            5 The information contained in the personal data has been made public as a result of steps deliberately taken by the data subject.

    3. scrubber

      Political Purity or eternal damnation

      "the rule that says you cannot vote if you support another party"

      Heaven forfend anyone ever change their political views at some point in their lives. Speak out against any policies of the "Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants" then you are forever barred from voting in their elections or having a say in their future.

      Labour, no one trusts you with the economy, our freedom or our security, please just go away.

      PS. Conservatives that applies to you too.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Labour Party...

    ...does not take Data Protection seriously. I recently wanted to sign an e-petition on their web site but refused to do so when I found that, in breach of the law, you could not opt out of email or telephone marketing until you had already received an email and a phone call from them, at which point you could opt-out.

    1. paulf

      Re: The Labour Party...

      Partly related.

      Something I'm seeing a lot more is the: "By <interacting with us in some way that hands over your personal details> you consent to us contacting you for marketing purposes. If you don't want your details used for these purposes please contact us by <postal address> to opt out".

      In other words you cannot tick (or untick, or "don't not untick the box if you never want to not get our advertisers' shite") the box to opt out at point of first contact. You have to go to the added effort of contacting them separately after the first contact. Make it harder to opt out and fewer will bother. I can't see how this is informed consent when the only way to withhold that informed consent it not dealing with them in the first place.

      Worryingly I find this more prevalent with Charities so I don't donate to those which pull this nasty little trick. My donation is the money I give you not my personal details for you to flog off to all and sundry via your marketing dept.

  10. codejunky Silver badge


    This labour election/problem is amusing but exists only because nobody knows what the election is for. Red Ed stepped down and labour supporters are to vote for a new head of the party, to choose the direction to take it, but what for and why?

    Some seem to think the election is for the leadership of the New Labour party of existing members who have to make a choice of extremism (left) but principals or the centre left with varying amounts of principals vs vote chasing. Basically the people who stuck with the party deciding if they want to move extreme left or keep a status quo (with degrees of opinions).

    Some seem to think the election is for the successful brand 'Labour' as one of the parties in the 2 party state to be redesigned by those who either left the party or want the party to be reshaped (usually into an extremist left group). It is the opportunity for the disenfranchised who left labour to return and remould it, or even for extremists who realise their hard left protest parties dont have the brand recognition to be acceptable to a 2 party state. Especially when newcomers UKIP achieved more in their short time than greens have (I believe due to the overcrowding of left parties vs the lack of centre right parties).

    Of course this leaves the party open to those on the right who may wish to join to remould the party more towards the centre or for some on the right to abuse the weakened and direction-less opposition by voting in an unelectable opponent.

    I dont think either group can be considered wrong as nobody seemed to define a goal for the election beyond replacing Ed. The interesting commentary being that labour lost for being internally confused/conflicted and to extremist to the left, resulting in a disorganised election which looks to be dragging the party into more internally confused/conflicted and extremist left.

    The idea of purging infiltrators seems to be daft when anyone can be called an infiltrator due to the lack of a defined goal, left/right or indifferent.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Merely a reflection of society

    where few people take data protection seriously

  12. Richard Wharram


    Social Media posts they could probably get away with. It's fairly public anyway.

    Canvassing info, no way. If they didn't get you to sign a disclaimer on the doorstep that they might use the info to disqualify you from future influence in the Labour Party or some-such then its a clear DPA breach.


    Also, Harriett Harmen specifically mentioned at the start of the campaign that it would enable former members and voters who have drifted to other parties to have some say in the future direction of the party and come back. I'll try to dig the tweet out where she is quoted. She only changed her tune once Corbyn looked like he had a possibility of victory.

    1. Blank-Reg

      Re: Hmm

      Harmen earlier today: "What?! They're coming back and voting for people we only approved to "broaden the debate" but didn't want to actually win? Quick, get 'em shifted lads persons!

    2. Christoph

      They have form for this

      It's not the first time they've completely changed their tune when the plebs don't vote for what the Party has decided is best for them.

      Labour: "We want a Mayor of London as an Independent Voice for London!"

      Red Ken: "There is no way I'm agreeing to your idiotic plan to privatise the tubes."

      Labour: "Right, you're out of the Labour Party. The last thing we'll let you be as Mayor of London is an Independent Voice for London."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They have form for this

        Exactly - just shows how much they value democracy.

        Like free speech - it's alright just as long as it's my version.

        Rather like most of the population.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: They have form for this


          "Like free speech - it's alright just as long as it's my version."

          13 years of training. Free speech as long as it doesnt offend anyone especially those looking to take offence. As long as it is acceptable to the most sensitive and delicate ears. And if anyone steps out of line and refuses to conform they must be abused, vilified and ridiculed for not being a good comrade.

  13. quattroprorocked

    All those who are rejected should file a subject access request, which will require that the party hand over EVERYTHING that they have on the person. A few thousand of these going in should put other parties off doing anything similar

    1. dorsetknob

      breach of the Sale of Goods act ect

      Any of the so called 3000 cheats who paid £3 for the chance of a Vote Get their Money back after being refused the Use of the right to vote

      No vote then they are entitled to a refund

    2. JohnMurray

      I did that with the police once.

      Their response was many sheets of A4 heavily covered with massive blocks of black.

      My name was at the top, and readable, nothing else was.

      Ditto with ATOS, who at least photocopied the redacted sheets....

    3. The Real SteveP

      Great idea; they can charge £10 per request for supplying the data and increase their revenue by doing so!

  14. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    I do wonder...

    I wonder how many of the people who supposedly asked to join the Labour Party actually exist? Were I running the vote, I would at least try to make sure that the names of the supporters correlated with those of people on the electoral roll.

    This would prevent entirely fictitious characters like A. Nonymous and Firstname Lastname from being able to vote without having a look at the local edited electoral roll and choosing suitable extant people to impersonate.

    It isn't much of a security check, but it is better than no security check at all, or a google search on each name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I do wonder...

      Any news on the journo who registered his cat?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I do wonder...

      Yes, because using the full electoral register for internal party vetting purposes wouldn't be entirely illegal, no, not at all.

      Breaching that part of the Representation of the People Regulations 2001 is a full-on criminal offence, btw.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: I do wonder...

      I did read a column somewhere last week where someone claimed he'd been rejected because he (well, actually some family pet) wasn't on the electoral roll, so it looks like they are using that as a first sweep.

  15. Kubla Cant

    Nice to see you back Mr Gerry

    1. Milibore declares that the electorate for the Labour leadership will in future include anyone who signs up as a supporter.

    2. People sign up as supporters.

    3. Harperson decides she doesn't like some of the people who've signed up so she disenfranchises them.

    It seems all supporters are equal, but some supporters are more equal than others. In what way is this not gerrymandering?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice to see you back Mr Gerry

      Yet they still think that they can run the country.

      I'd even question their ability to organize a piss up in a brewery. They'd probably serve only 0% lager.

      My father was a member of the party from 1931 until his death in 1994. He wasn't left wing but after the debacle of Michael Foot the party lost direction totally (his words). They lost the will to fight for their core beliefs.

      IT seems that the Tories are the less bad party. A sad state of affairs really.

  16. Vimes

    Given the number of people that happen to have the same name, how do they even know that the social media accounts actually belong to those trying to join the Labour party?

    (and that ignores the possibility of fake accounts too - there seem to be plenty of those)

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      I think some of them may have been a bit well known eg if it was someone like comedian/commentator Mark Steele. Though not my cup of tea, quite astute when I've heard him on radio etc. He's left wing but not excessively so for the Labour party.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As long as Harriet Harman gets fined...

    That's all that matters.

  18. Halfmad

    Utter nonsense

    It's no longer personal and private information the instant you make the choice to post it on the internet, end of story.

    The more pertinent question is whether Labour it STORING the information, but simply trawling websites looking for it is not illegal.

    1. The Real SteveP

      Re: Utter nonsense

      Even if they are storing the trawled information, because it's publicly available it isn't personal and therefore isn't covered by the data protection act. It's only private sensitive information that is covered.

      The privacy laws work on the "you can't put the genie back in the bottle" principle, quite correctly.

  19. ScottAS2

    And that time probably wasn't the first either...

    This isn't the first time Labour have played a bit fast and loose with the Data Protection Act.

  20. Clyde

    Using canvassing information

    I'm surprised only one comment concerning the use of canvassing information.

    Now that is a serious breach of the electoral laws, criminal action, and punishable severely.

    If only there were some laws in this country that obliged laws to be enforced.

  21. Cuddles

    Getting out of it?

    "However, he added legally it remains a grey area. "As that information has been made public – that will be how they'll try and get out of it."

    I'm not sure that really counts as "trying to get out of it". If people post information publicly on Twatter, they can hardly start complaining that other people might make use of it. The data protection act applies to data people have given you in confidence, not shit they've splurged all over the internet. For all the dodgy shenanigans going on here, reading people's publicly stated opinions is not part of it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't someone turn this into a soap opera?

    Or at least find a former agitprop artist who can do for Britain what this does for the US:

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