Len McCluskey says keeping Corbyn off ballot would be 'alien to natural justice'
Any attempt to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the Labour leadership would be “alien to the concept of natural justice”, union chief Len McCluskey has warned.
The party’s ruling National Executive Committee will decide this afternoon whether Mr Corbyn will automatically be on the ballot for the contest, or whether he will have to collect the signatures of 51 MPs and MEPs in order to stand.
It is thought he would struggle to make that total, given that only 40 MPs supported him in a recent vote of no confidence.
The BBC has seen a letter which suggests Mr Corbyn’s supporters will launch legal action against the NEC if they decide Mr Corbyn does need to seek nominations.
The letter from a firm of solicitors to Unite, the union which Mr McCluskey heads, says the rules about the leadership election are clear.
"The rules by which the Labour Party is governed are unambiguous: the leader does not require any signatures to be nominated in a leadership election where there is a potential challenger to the leadership,” the letter states.
This morning Mr McCluskey argued that if Mr Corbyn were forced to seek nominations it would be seen as a “sordid fix”.
“If they want to challenge the incumbent surely the basis of natural justice and the British sense of fair play, that incumbent has to be in a position to defend themselves in the arena of debate so that the 250,000 people who voted for him less than 10 months ago at least have their say, that’s surely the right way to do this,” he told the Today programme.
“I think that would be seen as a sordid fix and I think it would be alien to the traditions of the Labour party. Indeed, it would be alien to the concept of natural justice that Jeremy Corbyn is not automatically on the ballot paper."
Angela Eagle, who so far is the only declared contender for the leadership battle, accused Mr McCluskey of being “dramatic” with his criticism of anti-Corbyn MPs.
He has branded the attempts to unseat the Labour leader a “squalid coup” and warned that those working to get rid of Mr Corbyn would be “branded forever with the mark of infamy for betraying their party and their country”.
Ms Eagle, who has known Mr McCluskey nearly 40 years, suggested his comments were over the top.
“To be honest, Len sounds a bit like he’s gone to too many am-dram performances. I have known Len since I was 16, we get on very well, the point is I am a trade unionist to my fingertips,” she told the Today programme.
“Me and Len go back a long way and he can get a little bit dramatic sometimes.”