The false advertising/breach of contract issue is huge in the Labour Party, as the decision to restrict voting in the leader election to members who joined before January 12 excluded 130,000 people.
Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, says party rules entitle it to implement the cut-off date, which the NEC is able do as part of the election timetable – but there is no such provision in the rule book.
The National Executive Committee decided on July 12 that only members who had joined before 12 January could vote – while party leader Jeremy Corbyn and two of his supporters were out of the room.
Mr Corbyn has since expressed his concern over the decision to exclude members – most of whom, it is believed, wish to vote for him.
The party did allow newly registered supporters, a lesser category of member, to vote in the election at a cost of £25 – but, again, this is problematic.
Many of the 130,000 who joined after January 12 are also among the 185,000 who paid to become registered supporters – in effect paying twice for the privilege of having a vote.
If the decision on Monday goes in favour of the new members, then they may – rightly – demand back the money they had to fork out in supporters’ fees, at a cost of millions to the party.
All because a minority of members wanted to make it harder for Jeremy Corbyn to win.
The high court will rule on Monday on whether 130,000 people who recently became Labour party members will be allowed to vote in the upcoming leadership election, after a lawyer representing a group of them argued they had been unfairly excluded from the process.
The five new members, making the case on behalf of a bigger contingent who have crowdfunded their legal fees, are challenging Labour over contract law. They say the party’s national executive committee (NEC) was wrong to decide in July that only members who joined at least six months before could vote.
Stephen Cragg QC, representing the five, told the court that Labour’s rulebook made no provision for such a distinction and did not give the NEC powers to implement one.
He also argued that when the members joined, the Labour website and other communications said they would be “a key part of the team”, and thus eligible to vote in any leadership election. No prior leadership battle had seen a retrospective cut-off date for membership to qualify for a vote, he said.
Cragg told the judge, Mr Justice Justice Hickinbottom, that the members had been misled. “They paid their dues and found to their surprise they had been excluded from the present election,” he said.
“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.”
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