High Court strikes down disenfranchisement of Labour Party members

For the party to refuse to allow the claimants to vote in the current leadership election, because they have not been members since 12 January 2016, would be unlawful as in breach of contract. — Mr Justice Hickinbottom

The judge seemed very clear that his decision was all members of the party should have a right to vote in the leadership contest. Surely that has to be the right decision. — Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s National Executive Committee did not have the right to bar roughly 130,000 new members from voting in the upcoming leadership election, the High Court has ruled today. Such a decision should be seen as a victory for democracy and another loss for an out-of-touch Labour party establishment. — Liam Young

The manner in which the Labour Party Establishment behaves would do justice to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Labour Party NEC met to decide whether or not Jeremy Corbyn would be allowed to remain on the ballot for leader. The rules were crystal clear, but it took Labour NEC nearly six hours to reach a decision.

It was reinforced when a wealthy donor thought he could buy the party, or at least the leader. He challenged in the High Court that Jeremy Corbyn was allowed on the ballot. The judge quite rightly threw the case out.  But what the case flushed out was the extent to which Party officials were acting to undermine the leadership.

Today, five party members won their case, when a Judge in the High Court decided Labour NEC acted unlawfully when they acted to disenfranchise around 130,000 members.

For Hannah Fordham, one of the five new members, the reason for the NEC’s decision is ultimately irrelevant. Her campaign is an appeal to democracy and fairness:

Regardless of who you support in the leadership contest, or whether you are even a Labour member, I am sure you will agree that it is incredibly unfair to all the members, around 130,000 of them, who joined since 12 January to have their voting rights taken away.

Labour members who joined after 12 January were promised a vote in the leadership election when they handed over their membership fees:

As a member, you’ll be a key part of the team. You’ll be eligible to vote in leadership elections.

Representing the new members, Stephen Cragg QC argued:

They paid their dues and found to their surprise they had been excluded from the present election.

We say they have been wrongly excluded by breach of contract from the right to vote. We say there is nothing in the Labour Party rule book that suggests a limit on the members who can take part in the leadership election.

Joining the party involved a transaction for the now disenfranchised members. They were paying not only to support the party, but also to have their voice heard within the Labour movement. Anything less surely constitutes a breach of contract.

But even if there had not been an explicit promise they could vote in a Labour leadership contest, it would have been implicit upon joining the Party.

The party claimed that the six-month freeze date was “normal for internal selections”. But Cragg argued in court that no prior leadership contest had set a retroactive cut-off date for members to qualify to vote.

Up to a quarter of registered supporters, who paid £25 for a vote within a 48-hour window, have been banned from the Labour leadership election, with the party keeping up to £1,250,000 in voting fees – leaving a bitter taste for those rejected.

The High Court’s decision to expand the democratic exercise should be welcomed by all. Supporters handed over fees for a vote in any leadership election. To remove that right was not only a breach of contract, but an unjustified suppression of democracy.

What was also appalling was the manner in which Labour NEC decided to disenfranchise party members.

The vote had been taken to allow Jeremy Corbyn to be on the ballot. He and a few supporters left the meeting to inform the crowd outside of the good news. It was only then, Labour NEC pushed through disfranchisement of 130,000 members. It was not even on the Agenda.

The High Court has ruled.

But now, taking contempt for its own members to a whole new level, it looks as though Labour Party may appeal the decision.

This is against the interest of the membership, against the wishes of the leadership, so who are the Labour officials acting for?

If an Appeal is lodged against the members, it could cost the Party £250,000.

What political party spends £250,000 to abuse its own members?

This is gerrymandering on an industrial scale.

They are running scared of  Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, they know the game is up.

Please sign the petition demanding Labour NEC do not Appeal the High Court ruling granting their own members the right to vote.

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