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Calls for Labour leadership contest to be halted 'not helpful'

The challengers in the Labour leadership race Credit: ITV News

Calls to halt the Labour leadership contest have been branded "unhelpful" today after reports emerged of an alleged "wide scale hard-left infiltration" of the party.

ITV News correspondent Duncan Golestani reports:

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, one of the candidates in the leadership race, said he did not believe there had been an influx of hard-left supporters signing up to the party and made assurances there were "established procedures" in place to stop people signing up under false pretences.

Speaking on Sky's Murnaghan programme, he said: "We are in the middle of a good debate and we should keep it positive, I think. Let's have a debate about the party's future, it is engaging a lot of people and beginning to attract a lot of interest and that's a good thing for the Labour party."

He added: "I'm comfortable with people joining the Labour Party. Of course there are processes in place to check if somebody is joining for the wrong reasons and the party has got long established procedures to deal with that, and I don't have any evidence that that is happening on any wide scale."

Burnham's were echoed by Labour frontbencher Caroline Flint, a candidate for the deputy leadership, who said she also had not seen anything to "cause concern".

Questions about whether Labour's growing supporter numbers had been skewed by so-called "hard left" voters were raised today after MP John Mann made allegations to The Sunday Times that activists were signing up to back contest forerunner Jeremy Corbyn.

He told the paper: "It is becoming a farce with long-standing members ... in danger of getting trumped by people who have opposed the Labour Party and want to break it up, expressly want to break it up - some of it is the Militant Tendency types coming back in."

Corbyn told BBC1's Andrew Marr programme he only wanted people to register with the party if they were "genuine supporters".

He said: "The entryism that I see is lots of young people who were hitherto not very excited by politics coming in for the first time."

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