Blow for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour allowed to block new members from leadership vote
Judges have ruled that 130,000 new Labour members can be barred from voting in the party’s upcoming leadership election, in what will be considered a major blow for Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour bosses took to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to overturn a previous ruling that it could not ban those who signed up after 12 January from taking part in the ballot.
In a decision this afternoon that could put the bitter row to bed, the CoA said Labour’s National Executive Committee must be supreme in making the rules for the contest.
Lawyers acting for Iain McNicol, the Labour general secretary, argued the NEC was entitled to put in place a cut-off date, after which members would not get an automatic vote.
The court said there was “express provision” in the rules that “the precise eligibility criteria shall be defined by the National Executive Committee”.
It added: “The National Executive Committee has the power to set the criteria for members to be eligible to vote in the leadership election in the way it did.”
The verdict is a relief for Mr McNicol, after a source quoted in the Independent had claimed the leader’s allies would try to oust both him and deputy Labour leader Tom Watson if the appeal was unsuccessful.
Mr Corbyn’s team had accused Mr Watson of “forcing through” the NEC’s appeal to the original ruling.
The source said: "They sanctioned the freeze date, and they decided to spend members’ money on trying to stop their own members voting. The responsibility for this lies with them. The court case and the appeal will have cost the party £250,000.
"If it doesn’t go the way of McNicol and Watson tomorrow then surely their positions as general secretary and deputy leader of the Labour party are untenable."
The original challenge to the NEC’s ban was brought by five Labour members who argued it was unfair for them to be blocked from voting in the contest.
Labour offered new sign-ups a two day window to pay an extra £25 to become registered supporters and gain the right to take part in the ballot.
Mr Smith has said the leadership timetable should be pushed back by two weeks to allow the new members to come to an informed decision before the vote.