Jeremy Corbyn: Court of Appeal 'wrong' after members blocked from Labour leadership vote
Jeremy Corbyn has denounced the Court of Appeal as “legally and democratically wrong” after it allowed Labour to block 130,000 new members from voting in its leadership election.
In a major blow for the incumbent leader the court this afternoon overturned a High Court ruling that Labour bosses could not ban those who signed up after 12 January from taking part in the ballot.
The CoA said Labour’s National Executive Committee must be supreme in making the rules for the contest, after the appeal was brought by general secretary Iain McNicol.
In an extraordinary response laying bare the war between the leader and his own party executive, Mr Corbyn’s campaign team said the ruling would “disenfranchise” its members.
“We think that this is the wrong decision - both legally and democratically,” it said in an astonishing statement.
“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.”
The campaign said the NEC had been allowed to use a “making it up as you go along rule”, which it added was not “a reasonable way to conduct democracy in our party”.
And it argued “serious questions” should be asked of the NEC after it “effectively risked new members’ money in an attempt to disenfranchise them”.
The comment could be considered a veiled threat to Mr McNicol, after sources claimed the leader’s allies would try to oust him if the appeal was unsuccessful.
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 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.
They were today ordered by the CoA to ay Labour party costs of £30,000 within 28 days.
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.
'GETTING ON WITH THE JOB'
Owen Smith, the challenger to Jeremy Corbyn, said today’s ruling would not affect his campaign approach.
“I had welcomed the prospect of 125,000 additional members being given the opportunity to vote in this vitally important leadership election,” he said in a statement.
“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.”
Labour's NEC welcomed the ruling arguing it was "crucial" it "has the authority to debate, decide and implement the procedures, timetable and voting eligibility for our internal elections and selections".
It added: “The original Court decision had wide-ranging implications for the party and the authority of our governing body.
"It was the correct decision to seek clarification on this fundamental principle in the Court of Appeal.”
But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who is chairing Mr Corbyn's reelection campaign, said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the decision and attacked the 14 NEC members who originally voted for the membership cut-off date.
"I think this is a grubby manoeuvre and people who have been involved in it should be ashamed of themselves," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn was backed in the leadership race by the Prison Officers Association, which boasts 35,000 members.
It comes after the two largest unions, Unite and Unison, backed the veteran MP, while third largest the GMB threw its weight behind Mr Smith.