Keir Starmer's team in 'data hacking' row as he mourns mother-in-law

Sir Keir Starmer’s team in ‘data hacking’ row: Labour party clash over dirty tricks as leadership favourite mourns death of his mother-in-law

  • Sir Keir Starmer’s team was accused of hacking data on day mother-in-law died
  • Team said claims from party officials ‘utter nonsense’ and politically motivated
  • Accused Labour’s Jennie Formby of writing ‘threatening letters’ to his campaign

The Labour leadership race was engulfed in a dirty tricks row last night after Sir Keir Starmer’s team was accused of hacking data on the day his mother-in-law died.

Two of the frontrunner’s staff were reported to the Information Commissioner for allegedly infiltrating the party’s membership data.

But Sir Keir’s team said the claims from party officials were ‘utter nonsense’ and politically motivated.

The mother of Sir Keir Starmer’s wife Victoria (pictured with him on election night in 2017) had been in critical condition following an accident last month

They then accused Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby – a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn – of writing ‘threatening letters’ to his campaign.

The allegations were made public on the same day Sir Keir’s mother-in-law passed away following an accident.

Last night Simon Fletcher, a member of his campaign team, tweeted: ‘It is perhaps not surprising that Keir Starmer’s campaign is under attack, even on the weekend that his mother in law has died.

‘Part of his message is ending a toxic culture. Some are bound to feel invested in that culture.’ Labour is locked in a battle between Sir Keir, who represents the centre-Left, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, seen as Mr Corbyn’s successor.

The row started after Sir Keir’s staff were accused of ‘data-scraping’, which involves hacking information that could help gain campaign support.

He insisted they were investigating a means of penetrating the database – called Dialogue – with no intention to use it.

Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby – a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn – was accused of writing ‘threatening letters’ to his campaign

Jenny Chapman, the former Labour MP who is leading Sir Keir’s campaign, said no one on the team had the ‘capacity’ to hack the party’s databases and ‘wouldn’t do it anyway’.

‘It’s a very serious accusation and that is why I am here to defend it,’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics. ‘This isn’t even a situation where you say “some over-enthusiastic young volunteers may have done it”. It didn’t happen.’

Ex-Labour Cabinet minister Lord Falconer added: ‘Who do you believe? Do you believe Keir Starmer or do you believe that shower that have been around dealing for example with allegations of anti-Semitism? My money is on Keir Starmer’s side, not on that lot – we know they can’t be trusted.’

Miss Chapman suggested the allegations had only surfaced after her team alerted Labour officials last week to what they believed was potentially a ‘very serious’ data protection breach by Mrs Long-Bailey’s team. It emerged last week her campaign circulated links to volunteers capable of allowing them access to Labour phone banks.

The team claimed it acted innocently. But Miss Chapman said: ‘We wrote to the Labour Party… and we thought that was the end of it as far as we were concerned.

‘And the next thing you know, a couple of people on our campaign get letters saying “actually we think you have done something wrong”.’

Labour said it had written to Sir Keir and his leadership rivals to ‘remind them of their obligations under the law and to seek assurances membership data will not be misused’.

Any candidate who makes it to the final stage of the contest this month will be entitled to details of party membership.

Sir Keir, Mrs Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy have already qualified but Emily Thornberry has yet to do so. The Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed it received a report of a database breach and was investigating. Labour said it was conducting ‘a thorough investigation’ into the claims.

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