Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'

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The Labour hierarchy has rejected demands for its fractious leadership contest to be suspended following claims that large numbers of hard-left “infiltrators” and Tory mischief-makers have signed up with the common aim of  electing Jeremy Corbyn.

Amid mounting alarm within the party mainstream that the influx could tip the result in his direction, the Islington North MP said the rise in membership was prompted by the enthusiasm of young activists becoming engaged in politics.

Mr Corbyn sidestepped questions about whether he was a Marxist, but insisted he was not championing a “revolutionary” policy platform.

Labour has gained 52,000 members since Ed Miliband’s election defeat, pushing the total above 250,000, while another 18,000 have paid £3 to become “registered supporters” with the right to vote while the unions have signed up 25,000 “affiliate members”.

At the current rate, some 140,000 new activists could be entitled to vote on Mr Miliband’s successor by the registration deadline of 12 August.

Mr Corbyn has become the surprise success of the campaign with 103 local branches of the party giving him their support compared with 100 declared for Burham, 87 for Yvette Cooper and just 14 for Liz Kendall, the New Statesman reports.

A private poll seen by the Times last week suggested Corbyn was fifteen points ahead of his nearest rival and could win the leadership.

Two senior MPs called for Harriet Harman, the party’s acting leader, to suspend the contest to enable careful checks to be carried out on the new members.

John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, said: “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. Some of it is the militant tendency types coming back in.”

The Independent, UK