Electing the party leader - recent events in Australia and the UK, update September 2015

A  FlagPost published in May 2015 titled Electing the party leader –recent events in Australia and the UK outlined the methods used by major parties in Australia and the UK to elect party leaders.

In the last few weeks new leaders have been elected by the Liberal Party of Australia and the UK Labour Party, using very different electoral systems.

Liberal Party of Australia

On 14 September 2015 at 4pm the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, called a press conference to announce his resignation from the ministry and his intention to challenge Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party. Members of the parliamentary Liberal Party met on the same day at 9.15pm to vote in a secret leadership ballot contested by Abbott and Turnbull. The latter was successful, winning 54 votes to Abbott’s 44. Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as Australia’s 29th Prime Minister on 15 September 2015.

UK Labour Party

Leadership campaign

Following the loss of the 2015 election, the Labour Party commenced the process of electing a new leader and deputy leader using, for the first time, the system of One Member One Vote. The new system consists of three categories of voters: Labour Party members, registered supporters (those who are not party members or members of an affiliated organisation but who have paid a small fee to participate in leadership elections), and affiliated supporters (members of affiliated organisations who have registered with the party).

During the four-month election period the Labour Party allowed anyone to sign up and vote as a registered supporter for £3. By mid-August it was reported that the Party had banned roughly 1,200 party ‘infiltrators’ from voting in the leadership election. Concerns were raised that supporters of other political groups were signing up to back the left-wing candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, for the leadership. Those banned included members of the Conservative Party, the Greens Party, the UK Independence Party and the British National Party.

On 20 August 2015 the Guardian reported that the Labour Party had disregarded legal advice to add an additional verification stage for new members. One commentator suggested that the decline in voters’ allegiance to the two main parties (Conservative and Labour) has caused parties to offer new types of membership:

'It is the fundamental challenge that mainstream politicians face in the 21st century, as they struggle to reach out to new supporters without alienating their existing activists. How much loyalty do they have a right to demand of their members? Or, to put it more simply: how do you invite people to join your party without attracting gatecrashers too?'


On 12 September 2015, after a four-month campaign by the candidates (Jeremy Corbyn, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall), Labour members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters elected Corbyn as the new Labour leader. Corbyn, who had struggled to attract the 15 per cent of parliamentary party members required for nomination, has been the Member for Islington North since 1983 and has been described as ‘arguably the most left-wing leader in Labour history’.

The UK Labour Party website published results showing that Corbyn was elected in the first round with 59.5 per cent of the vote. A breakdown of the vote shows that Corbyn won almost 50 per cent of the votes of full party members, 84 per cent of registered supporters and 58 per cent of affiliated supporters.

Results 1st stage


Registered supporters

Affiliated supporters


Percentage of valid vote

Jeremy Corbyn






Andy Burnham






Yvette Cooper






Liz Kendall













The Guardian reported the results in an infographic, noting that out of  '554,272' eligible voters, the 422,664 votes cast represented a turnout of '76.30%'.


Tags: Elections


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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