A national executive committee will start work this week on devising new rules to prevent what some Labour leaders regard as Asian 'entryism'.
Investigations by party officials have revealed alleged irregularities in payments of subscriptions; the use of false addresses for prospective members; intimidation of existing members; disruption of meetings; and block voting by Asian caucuses. But Asian members have accused party officials of racism. Such allegations and counter-allegations are behind a court case concerning the Manchester Gorton constituency, a safe Labour seat held by Gerald Kaufman. Labour officials are investigating similar allegations in at least six other inner city constituencies.
A group of Asians in Gorton had their membership applications blocked after an investigation revealed that more than 600 had applied to join the party in 1993. Of these, 28 per cent were rejected, most because the applicant was not registered to vote in Gorton. 'Some were not on the electoral register, some said they lived in houses which did not exist,' a local party official said.
The case was taken to court by the Asians, who claimed racial discrimination.
'This is a problem which has to be handled in a quiet and methodical way,' David Blunkett, party chairman, said. 'We want to encourage mass membership, but Asian entryism or any mass recruitment which manipulates a constituency for an individual's purposes must be investigated.'
Among the other constituencies being investigated are:
Nottingham East. Party subscriptions have been paid for more than 100 members by one individual, arousing suspicion that votes have been bought. Asian party officials say they used a single cheque for convenience after they had collected payments in cash.
Bradford West and Rotherham. In both cases, mass recruitment campaigns by Asians were abandoned when the organisers realised they were too late to influence selection of Parliamentary candidates.
Three Birmingham seats. Officials have noted sudden recruitment drives in the Asian community. 'It is the result of the ambitions of certain individuals,' one of the city's MPs said last week. 'Elements of Asian political culture are unacceptable. There has to be some test of how these people come to join, how genuine they are. There is no premium on participation, and perhaps some record of attendance at meetings should be a qualification for voting.'
The National Executive's 18-member organisation committee will try to devise a mechanism that prevents entryism without discouraging Asian membership.
'There is no evidence of a national conspiracy,' one committee member said. 'But there are local individuals with pounds 2,000-pounds 3,000 to spend whose attempts to get elected cause us concern. One remedy may be to insist that each individual pays his or her own subscriptions.
'Many MPs in areas with fairly large Asian ethnic groupings have been watching Gorton very closely. They can see a lifetime's work going down the drain. In many inner city seats, there may be only 250 members. It would not be expensive to buy control.'
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