Court of Appeal backs Labour NEC — excluding 130,000 new members

Corbyn campaign says it is 'the wrong decision — both legally and democratically'

 

Labour’s National Executive Committee has successfully overturned the High Court’s ruling that it would be unlawful to exclude members registered after 12 January from voting in the leadership contest.

The decision will be a blow to Jeremy Corbyn, who was expected to take the majority of the 130,000 new members’ votes.

The five new members who took the case to the High Court requested permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but were refused.

The judge accepted the NEC’s argument that its authority is supreme in setting rules for the contest, saying that there was “express provision” in the Labour rule book for the NEC to define voter eligibility.

A spokesperson for Jeremy for Labour has issued a statement criticising the ruling, and the NEC’s decision to appeal:

“We think that this is the wrong decision — both legally and democratically.

“The Court’s ruling disenfranchises nearly 130,000 Labour members, who joined the party since January and were explicitly told that they would have a vote in any leadership election.

“Crucial to the outcome today was the introduction of a new argument by the Labour Party HQ’s lawyers, who invoked an obscure clause in the Labour Party rules (Chapter 4, Clause II, 1.A), which could be read as giving the NEC the right to ignore all of the rules laid out for leadership elections.

“In other words, this is a ‘make it up as you go along’ rule. We do not think that making it up as you go along is a reasonable way to conduct democracy in our party.

“Serious questions must be raised, however, over why and how the NEC Procedures Committee brought this appeal.

“In doing so, it effectively risked new members’ money on an attempt to disenfranchise them. If we are to build a big, inclusive party to take on the Tories, we need to secure democracy in our party.”

Responding to the decision, Owen Smith commented:

“I had welcomed the prospect of 125,000 additional members being given the opportunity to vote in this vitally important leadership election.

“The decision of the Appeal Court today doesn’t change my approach to this contest; I am getting on with the job of talking to as many members and supporters across the country as possible and making the case for a united, radical and credible Labour Party.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.