REVEALED: The Labour party legal advice which says Jeremy Corbyn must get MP backing to run again
Allowing Jeremy Corbyn to stand in a new Labour leadership contest without the backing of at least one-fifth of the party's MPs and MEPs would be "remarkable", according to legal advice seen by PoliticsHome.
The 10-page document, written by James Goudie QC, was requested by the party as speculation grew that Mr Corbyn would face a leadership challenge.
Mr Corbyn's supporters insist that as the incumbent, he should automatically be on the ballot paper.
But his critics insist he should have to get 51 nominations from MPs and MEPs, just like those challenging him.
Mr Goudie's presented his legal opinion to today's crunch meeting of Labour's ruling national executive committee, which will rule on the row later tonight.
The advice has never been made public until now, but a copy has been leaked to PoliticsHome.
In it, Mr Goudie makes clear that in his opinion, the Labour rule book shows that Mr Corbyn must gain nominations to prove that he has "a measurable degree of support" among his parliamentary colleagues..
He says: "The policy approach is clear and obvious: on the one hand the leader will be elected by the party in the country; on the other hand the leader should also have a measurable degree of support amongst Labour MPs. The rules are manifestly intended to and do achieve this balance."
Mr Goudie adds: "If 20% of support was required for candidates generally but not for an incumbent, then nill or negligible support within the PLP/EPLP for the incumbent would suffice, a remarkable conclusion."
The top lawyer goes on: "The key provision is that, in the event that (i) there is no vacancy but (ii) there is a challenge, "any" nomination must be supported by 20% of Labour MPs/MEPs. "Any" is a simple English word. It means what it says. "Any" is not unqualified. The rules do not say "any except the incumbent" or words to that effect."
Mr Goudie also dismisses separate legal advice given to the party by Mark Henderson, which was also presented to today's meeting and says Mr Corbyn should be on the ballot automatically.
He says: "The wording is clear. I repeat: "any" simply means "any", not any except the incumbent. The 20% applies fair and square across the board."